Chapter 1: Infinity
Another dimension, another Manhattan.
That was the problem the Doctor and her friends (Ryan Sinclair, Graham O’Brien, and Yasmin “Yaz” Khan) faced while stuck in the infinite dimensional corridor. Four different realms they’ve traveled to so far, and each of them was some version of New York City they either recognized or found totally alien.
The best they could do in this Manhattan was to go on a luncheon (as the Doctor put it), choosing the nearest diner called “Pete’s Luncheonette” – a place that the Doctor couldn’t help but recognize.
In fact, much of this version of Manhattan looked very familiar.
“We need to find a way back home,” Graham suggested while munching on his pickle, butter, and sardine sandwich. “All this bouncin’ about in-between parallel universes of New York City has got me thrashed.”
“Kinda like that one show, Sliders, with all those people who kept discoverin’ other versions of their world,” Ryan reflected. “What if that’s what we’re like now, eh?”
“If we are, I’d at least hope we come across a New York with Kurt Russell in it,” Yaz teased.
“What do you think, Doc?” Graham asked.
His question fell on deaf ears. The Doctor was more distracted than usual with something (or someone) who just walked through the diner entrance. Graham, Ryan, and Yaz followed her gaze and were stunned to see none other than Kermit the Frog, Gonzo the Great, Fozzie Bear, Scooter, and Kermit’s nephew (Robin) all enter. They approached the counter, ordering their lunch from the young human waitress, Jenny.
“Are my eyes deceivin’ me or am I lookin’ at the Kermit the Frog?!” the perplexed Graham asked.
“Nah, Granddad,” Ryan confirmed. “‘Cause I’m seein’ it, too.”
“I knew I recognized the world we’re in – I’ve been here before,” the Doctor finally spoke up. “This is a peculiar dimension. It’s one with both Muppets and superheroes.”
Graham scoffed. “You’re jokin’.”
“The things we’ve seen and only now you think she’s jokin’?” Ryan called him out. “How can you think that when the proof is right there in front of ya?”
“Doctor, you said that you’ve been here before?” Yaz indicated.
“Many times, in fact,” the Doctor said. “I can’t quite go into all that right now, but Kermit and his friends might be able to help us out.”
“How’s a frog, a bear, and a whatever supposed to help us out?” Graham asked.
Unfortunately, the Doctor didn’t stop to give him a direct answer. Instead, she eagerly approached the booth where the Muppets were sitting and said, “‘ello!”
Kermit and his friends looked up from their plates, seeing the smiling Northern English blonde in the rainbow-striped tee and fancy trench coat. “Uh, hi?” Kermit remarked. “I’m sorry, but could you wait until after we’ve finished our lunch for an autograph?”
“I can always sign mine in ketchup,” Gonzo insisted.
“Oh, no, no,” the Doctor negated. “I’m not lookin’ for an autograph. I just wanted to say how brilliant it is to see all of you again.”
The five Muppets looked on each other in confusion.
“Erm…thanks, I guess,” Kermit uttered. “What’s your name?”
The Doctor smirked. “Thought you’d never ask! I’m the Do—!”
Sudden commotion outside brought everyone’s attention away from each other and their meals to outside the diner. The Doctor was nearly knocked down by one of several people fleeing from something in the streets. She proceeded to scan the area with her sonic screwdriver, picking up on something huge that led her and her friends into the opposite direction everyone else was heading.
“Oh, boy!” Robin cheered. “This could be a big scoop for your newspaper, Uncle Kermit! Let’s see what it is!”
“Robin, wait!” Kermit called, but his nephew was already tailing the four British strangers. Reluctantly, Kermit chased after him with Fozzie, Gonzo, and Scooter – Gonzo already had his vintage flash camera ready to take photographs that would in no way make it on The Daily Chronicle’s webpage.
Rounding the corner, they discovered a massive doughnut-shaped spaceship hovering above a street corner where four brave men confronted two extraterrestrial beings – both tall in stature but different body types (one was lanky and the other was a huge brute). But, it was the four men that the Doctor, her companions, and the Muppets recognized as Tony Stark (a.k.a. “Iron Man”), Bruce Banner (a.k.a. “The Hulk”), Doctor Stephen Strange, and Strange’s fellow Master of the Mystic Arts, Wong.
Stark began a scuffle with the two extraterrestrials by activating his armor from nanotechnology, taking on the bigger of the two aliens. Meanwhile, Strange and Wong engaged in a battle of magic versus telekinesis with the lanky invader. Bruce Banner, on the other hand, was put on the sidelines, due to an inability to transform into the Hulk.
“Alright, I’ll admit it: you weren’t jokin’, Doc,” Graham said as he witnessed the epic fight on the street corner.
In the midst of it, Gonzo decided that it would be a smart idea to take photos. Unfortunately, the flash of his camera attracted the attention of the brute invader, charging towards the group.
“You just had to take a photo!” Fozzie yelled to Gonzo.
The group ran from the big alien, as it swung its massive axe-hammer to clear the abandoned vehicles in its path. It chased the Doctor, her friends, and the Muppets all the way to Washington Square Park. It nearly had them dead in its sights, until it was hit by some type of energy wave that sent it falling back.
Out of nowhere emerged three more heroes – ones that the Doctor vividly recognized: a human man, a woman who appeared human but was actually Sebacean (an alien race distantly related to humans), and a Luxan warrior.
“Knocked ‘im right on his ass!” The human man victoriously yelled.
“It isn’t time for celebrations yet, Crichton,” the Luxan told the man. “Cull Obsidian still breathes!”
“Not for much longer,” the Sebacean woman declared.
The three individuals proceeded to attack the alien brute (whose name was apparently “Cull Obsidian” by what the Luxan called him) with their intergalactic weapons. They seemed to have only minimal effect, as Obsidian came back stronger than before, swinging his axe-hammer at their heads, prompting them to dodge for their lives.
This battle royal got more complicated with the emergence of Spider-Man and the reemergence of Iron Man, using the combined efforts of their high-tech suits to overpower Obsidian.
“Another Spider-Man?!” Yaz said in surprise. “We already met two in the last dimension we visited!”
Thankfully, Wong arrived in time to conjure a portal to Antarctica that he sent Obsidian through, closing it before Obsidian could try to jump back to Manhattan. His attempted effort costed him his arm. The victory happened at just the right time, as Doctor Strange was abducted by Obsidian’s partner in crime, with Iron Man and Spider-Man in pursuit of his spacecraft.
The others were left to watch as the two heroes vanished into orbit.
“We gotta follow ‘em,” Crichton suggested. “Obsidian and Maw are our only lead to Thanos, and that wizard dude they just took has got an Infinity Stone on him!”
“What do you know of the Infinity Stones?” Wong asked Crichton.
“Only that they’re the most powerful relics in the universe,” Crichton said. “And, if Thanos gets his greasy mitts on all six of ‘em, we’re in some deep dren.”
“Oi! Language!” The Doctor chided him. “There’s a child present.”
She gestured specifically to Robin, who otherwise curiously inquired, “What does ‘dren’ mean?”
Crichton eyed the Doctor ruthlessly. “And who pray tell are you?”
The Doctor let out an irritable groan. “Seriously?! All day, I’ve run into you lot, and I still recognize each and every one of you.” She commenced in pointing to each face she saw (with the exception of her own fam) and uttering the name it went with: “John Crichton, Aeryn Sun, Ka D’Argo, Wong, Scooter, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Robin the Frog, and – last but certainly not least – Kermit the Frog!”
They all looked on her bafflingly.
“Who are you?” Kermit asked the question everyone else had on their minds.
“I’m the Doctor,” she said with a bright smile.
Her answer didn’t help clear up their confusion, as it only led to more questions and doubt. “No way,” Crichton remarked. “The Doc we knew was an old Scottish guy with white hair.”
“That was me,” the Doctor said.
“The Doctor I knew was a young man who wore a bowtie,” Wong recalled.
“That was me, too,” the Doctor said.
“But the Doctor we knew was a man in a suit and tie,” Scooter indicated.
“And he wore sandshoes,” Fozzie included.
“Most importantly, he was a man,” Kermit added.
“Also me,” the Doctor told them. “I’m a Time Lord. My appearance changes whenever I’m seriously hurt or on the brink of death.” She was quick to bring their focus back on the matter at hand. “But that’s beside the point. You all mentioned Thanos and the Infinity Stones. How many has he already found?”
“Three, including the Time Stone that wizard had,” Aeryn Sun (the Sebacean woman) disclosed.
The Doctor twiddled her fingers nervously. “Not good, not good. The Power Stone was dangerous enough by itself in the wrong hands. I can only fathom how deadly all six stones would be in Thanos’s grips.” She gestured over Crichton, Aeryn, and D’Argo. “Is Moya somewhere close to Earth’s orbit?”
Crichton was momentarily taken aback by how well she knew of their ship, proving that she really was the Doctor. “Y-Yeah,” he stammered on his reply. “It’s still floatin’ ‘round up there.”
“Good,” the Doctor approved with a nod. “I’ll give you a lift back up in me TARDIS, if you give us a lift to Knowhere.”
“Why would you wanna go nowhere?” Gonzo asked. “You gotta go somewhere.”
The Doctor chuckled. “No, Gonzo. Knowhere’s a place very far from here. It’s where the Reality Stone is. I left it there with a man I believed that I could trust: Taneleer Tivan.”
“You got to frellin’ kidding me,” Aeryn griped. “You left it with the Collector?!”
“Do you have any idea how untrustworthy that man is?” D’Argo said.
The Doctor, hands on her hips, sheepishly looked down. “Yeah… it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Uncle Kermit,” Robin said. “Can we go with the Doctor to outer space? We hadn’t seen him – I mean, her – in ten years!”
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt,” Kermit presumed. “You wouldn’t mind, would ya, Doctor?”
“As long as you let Miss Piggy know about it first,” the Doctor said.
Chapter 2: Ten
Miss Piggy couldn’t have been more thrilled with her job than she was today. Being a television news reporter had its merits, one of which was having access to a Wakandan air transport, en route to Wakanda itself. And she wasn’t going alone. Along with her were her assistant, Pepe the King Prawn, and their camera crew: boom operator Animal and cameraman Beauregard, their dim but lovable janitor friend from the Muppet Theatre. This special trip was arranged for Miss Piggy’s interview with T’Challa, monarch of the African nation, known better as “Black Panther.”
Aboard the transport (made of pure vibranium and running on energy unlike any on Earth), they sat across from two women, a tall, busty redhead and a short, dark-haired Sicilian-American, both dressed-to-impress for their own meeting with T’Challa. Pepe eavesdropped on their conversation, which consisted of the busty redhead showing a bit of discomfort in the black gown she wore.
“How do women wear these things without letting their goods slip out?” she griped.
“If it makes you that uncomfortable, why are you wearing it?” her Sicilian-American friend inquired.
The busty redhead repeatedly readjusted herself, trying and failing to conceal her cleavage. “Because I have to look respectable in the presence of King T’Challa…that’s what Elle told me.”
“I think she might’ve been dickin’ around with you, hon,” the Sicilian-American woman snickered. “I mean, look at me. I’m nowhere near as dolled up as you. I look like I’m ready to go to a punk rock concert.”
The busty redhead sighed, not at all amused. “Remind me to kill Elle when we get back home.”
“At least it’s not as uncomfortable as Hank’s stability suit.”
“Yeah, that nanotech in my bloodstream has really been keeping my molecules together these last couple of years. Makes using my powers a whole lot safer, too.”
At this point, Pepe just had to interject himself into the exchange. “Jou have superpowers?! Tell me more, h’okay!”
“S-She was just kidding,” the Sicilian-American woman covered. “She doesn’t have any superpowers…that’d be silly.”
“But I heard jou,” Pepe pressed. “Jou said something about jour ‘powers’.”
“No, she didn’t.”
“Jes, she did, h’okay!”
“No, she didn’t!”
This back-and-forth between them lasted for nearly a minute before Animal broke it up by screaming, “QUIET!!!!” Just about everyone in the transport fell silent following the outburst. Piggy could only sink in her seat with embarrassment.
Thankfully, they landed not a moment later and were greeted by T’Challa himself.
“Welcome to Wakanda,” he said. “Follow me inside. I assume there is much that we must discuss.” He led them inside the citadel and through the majestic halls. “Today has certainly had its fill of visitors. Earlier, I received a visit from an English gentleman in a pin-striped suit and light brown overcoat, claiming to be a doctor.”
His description sounded familiar to Piggy and her crew.
“Of course, the strangest part is who he brought with him,” T’Challa continued. “The Avenger android called ‘Vision’ and Wanda Maximoff, both – as you know – are currently fugitives from the government.”
“Wait a sec,” the Sicilian-American woman uttered in a sense of urgency. “Wanda and Vision are here?!”
“Yes, Agent Livingston,” T’Challa addressed her, prompting Pepe to wonder what kind of agent she was, dressed like a punk rock star. “As it would seem, this ‘doctor’ discovered that Vision had been harboring what he calls an ‘Infinity Stone’. They arrived in quite an unusual vessel: a big blue box marked ‘police’ on it.”
This additional piece of information drove Piggy and her friends to sheer jubilation. “That’s him! That’s him! That’s him!” she repeatedly cheered.
“You know this visitor of ours?” T’Challa asked her.
“Yes, yes,” Piggy confirmed. “He goes by ‘The Doctor’ and that big blue box is his TARDIS.”
Her knowledge amused T’Challa. “Well, they’re both waiting in my throne room.”
“Yippee!” Piggy rushed ahead of the group to charge through the throne room doors. Sure enough, the man who T’Challa described to a tee (or, as far as Piggy’s concerned, a ten) was standing in his throne room. “Doctor! Doctor! Doctor!” She jubilantly chanted as she ran to the Time Lord and clung herself to his waist.
The Doctor was delighted (albeit surprised) when the Muppet diva rushed to him. “Miss Piggy?” he said in that cultured cockney accent that Piggy adored, flecked with hints of Scots. “What’re you doing in Wakanda?”
“I’m a TV reporter now,” Piggy told him. “I’m doing an exclusive with King T’Challa.”
“Is that so?” The Doctor beamed. “I always knew you were meant for greatness.”
“What’s that dusty old British police box doin’ there?” Agent Livingston questioned, gesturing to the object of interest as it stood behind T’Challa’s throne.
“Oi!” the offended Doctor exclaimed. “That’s not just a dusty old British police box! It’s my ship!”
The busty redhead scoffed. “That’s a ship?”
“Have a look inside it, if you want,” the Doctor invited, giving a haughty wink to Miss Piggy, who stifled a chuckle.
The two women accepted his invitation, walking through the opened doors of the police box and into a much bigger space within. Housed inside was a large, circular area supported by six coral pillars arranged in a hexagonal pattern upon a platform of the same make. By its organic design, it seemed alien to the two women.
“You gotta be kiddin’ me,” the redhead gasped.
“That’s what I said when I saw it,” spoke a voice inside the room, which they saw to be Wanda Maximoff. She was there with a gravely wounded Vision, who leaned against one of the coral pillars just to keep himself on his feet.
“Hello, Agent Livingston and Agent X,” he still had enough strength to give a friendly greeting.
“Vision!” the redhead (Agent X) cried. “What happened to you?”
“We were attacked by two aliens in Scotland,” Wanda elucidated. “We’ve been hiding there since the Avengers disbanded. That man – the Doctor – found us in this unusual box of his and got us out before it could get worse.”
“How did he find you?” Agent Livingston asked.
“With his alien tool,” Wanda said. “He called it a…sonic wrench?”
“Screwdriver,” uttered the Doctor, who appeared in his ship with the Muppets. “I’ve spent enough time in this universe to learn some of its secrets, including Thanos and his obsession with the Infinity Stones.”
“Who’s Thanos?” Agent Livingston asked.
“A mad Titan bent on hunting all six of the stones,” the Doctor divulged. “He’ll undoubtedly come for Vision, and when he does, he’ll tear that stone from his head and kill him.”
“Jeesh!” Pepe quivered. “Jou don’t sugarcoat anything, do jou?”
“What does this Thanos look like?” Agent X asked the Doctor.
“Ohhh, he’s quite the big fella,” he described. “Purple skin with a golden gauntlet to keep each stone he comes into possession of.” He then noticed the greatly disturbed look on Agent X’s face. “Why? Have you seen him?”
X nodded with a nervous gulp. “I’ve been having visions of him…I think.”
“Ha! I knew it!” Pepe blurted. “I knew she had superpowers! I told jou! I told jou all! She has…” He was suddenly silenced by Piggy with a karate chop to the gut.
With Pepe muzzled, Agent Livingston proceeded to ask Agent X, “What did these visions of this ‘Thanos’ tell you?”
“Only that we’re gonna need an army to take him on,” X replied.
“You won’t need an army,” the Doctor proclaimed. “You have me.”
Agent Livingston shot him a cold look. “Well, that’s a high-and-mighty response if I ever heard one! We don’t even know who you are, dude!”
The conversation came to an abrupt end with the emergence of T’Challa.
“My apologies for the interruption, but I just received word that Captain Rogers is on his way with Miss Romanoff and Mister Wilson,” he announced.
“Mister Wilson? Dennis the Menace’s neighbor?” Beauregard reacted with genuine surprise. “He’s comin’, too?”
“He means the Falcon, you dope!” Piggy criticized her cameraman.
“Doctor Banner and Colonel Rhodes will be with them,” T’Challa added.
“They have undoubtedly discovered our absence in Scotland,” Vision deduced. “They will have questions and concerns.”
“We’ll settle all of that once they’re here,” Agent Livingston asserted. She then momentarily turned to the Doctor and told him, “The right man for the job is here. So you and your freaky box can go back to whatever you came from, Doctor Whoever-You-Are.” She departed from the TARDIS with Agent X and T’Challa thereafter.
Piggy was not at all pleased with the agent’s departing words, making a threatening advancement towards her as she exited. “Why I oughta…,” she grumbled.
Thankfully, the Doctor held her back before she did something she would regret.
“Let her go,” he advised. “We’ll just take matters into our own hands.”
“What do you mean?” Wanda asked him.
“What I mean is that we’re taking Vision and the stone away from here,” the Doctor proposed. “Preferably, another time and place.”
His bold proposal made Piggy ooze with excitement.
“Beauregard, get that camera rollin’,” she aggressively ordered. “And don’t forget to take the lens cap off this time!”
Chapter 3: Knowhere
VWORP! VWORP! VWORP!
The Doctor’s TARDIS materialized within one of the multiple corridors of the living Leviathan ship known as “Moya.” Stepping out of the police box, Graham could feel the floor pulsating beneath his feet, just like inside the Doctor’s TARDIS. “The floor feels weird,” he noted to the others.
“Living spaceship, Graham,” the Doctor enunciated. “Try to keep up.”
In the short journey between Earth and Moya, Aeryn had been occupied by her growing curiosity of Kermit and his friends. Kermit, in return, was amused as to how Aeryn knew of him.
“You’re telling me that you learned our Earth’s language and alphabet by watching a rerun of Sesame Street?” he asked her.
“Exactly,” Aeryn verified. “Wasn’t easy with the frellin’ girl you were with always replacing a letter with ‘Cookie Monster’. In fact, now that you’re here, Mr. Frog, I can ask you – what is a ‘Cookie Monster’?”
Kermit wasn’t sure where to even begin. “Well, uh…”
“What’s this now? More stragglers you’ve picked up from Crichton’s drenhole planet?” A creature that was smaller and greener than Robin floated its way into the conversation on an advanced technological sled of some kind. By the standards of Graham, Yaz, Ryan, and the Muppets, he even appeared as amphibious as Kermit and Robin, albeit with skin that was thick and leathery as opposed to the foam that was Kermit and Robin’s.
“What did we say about callin’ my home planet a ‘drenhole’, Rygel?” Crichton snapped at the Hynerian.
“Everyone in the frellin’ galaxy knows that it is,” Rygel snapped back before operating his throne sled to float in close towards Kermit, Fozzie, Scooter, and Robin. “Look at how revoltingly off-putting their lifeforms are.”
“Hey!” an offended Fozzie remarked. “We resemble that remark!”
Rygel then floated near Gonzo. His large eyes got even larger while analyzing the whatever. “But this one,” he gasped. “This is the only palatable one of the bunch.”
“Thanks…I guess?” Gonzo tentatively responded.
“Enough talk,” D’Argo commanded. “We must converge in the bridge to discuss our next strategy against Thanos and the Black Order.”
The Moya crew led the Doctor and her companions down the way.
As they headed for the bridge, Graham’s attention was suddenly attracted to one of the ship quarters, stopping him in his tracks to take a peek while the others continued on. Though its door was closed, he could still see into the room through certain apertures etched in the design. Inside this specific room, Graham saw what appeared to be a blue-skinned female humanoid sitting lotus style and meditating while naked (though Graham only saw her back).
Graham knew he should’ve looked away, but there was something about this blue alien woman that kept his gaze locked on her nude form. It was dotted with light green patterns and lacked any body hair, completely bald from head to toe.
“I’m certain you know it’s impolite to stare,” he heard the blue woman tell him, without even looking his way.
Graham stiffened in embarrassment. “I-I’m sorry. I was just…”
“Staring,” she finished his sentiment. “That’s what you were doing.” She finally turned her head, gazing at him with a flirtatious grin and a pair of eyes that were bluer than her own skin. “It’s alright. I’m Delvian, not shy.”
She stood up and faced him. Now seeing her front, Graham certainly knew it was time to look away. Clearing his throat, he stammered, “Y-You’re a what-now?”
“Not a ‘what-now’,” she corrected. “A Delvian. My name is Zotoh Zhaan.”
“Pleasure to meet ya, Miss Zhaan. I’m Graham O’Brien.” He stuck his hand through one of the apertures to shake Zhaan’s. “So, uh, all of your people look…blue?”
“Many species are blue. Mine were an exception. We were exquisite in our biological design.”
“Were?” Graham picked up on the tense.
Zhaan lowered her head in woe. “They were all slain by Thanos. I…I am the last of the Delvians…the last of my kind.”
The embarrassment Graham felt a second ago was now replaced with sympathy. “I’m sorry,” he told her. “That’s horrible.”
“You may look now.” Graham wasn’t sure what she meant by that until he glanced back into her quarters. Zhaan had clothed her nude body with a majestic robe; its collar was still spacious enough to show off her shoulders. “Is that better?”
Graham nodded with a gentle smile. “Much better. Thanks.”
She joined him in catching up with the others in the bridge. They met up with another member of the Moya crew named Chiana, a Nebari with grey skin, dark eyes, and white hair. She was quite fascinated by Kermit, Fozzie, Robin, Scooter, and Gonzo. “They’re like Rygel – only, you know, cuter,” she observed.
“Hmph!” Rygel scoffed. “We’re nothing alike…except for the blue, hook-nosed one, of course.”
The Doctor pointed her sonic screwdriver at the bridge controls, patching in with Pilot, a creature whose namesake was in species as well as purpose, directly connected to the Leviathan's nervous system.
“’Ello, Pilot! This is the Doctor. Long time, no see.”
“I beg your pardon?” Pilot reacted in confusion. “Did you say you’re the Doctor? You certainly don’t sound like him.”
“Long story,” the Doctor passively said. “Remind me to tell you all about it sometime. Right now, I need to know how quickly we can make it to Knowhere via starburst.”
“No less than a few minutes,” Pilot verified.
“Brilliant! Plot a course,” the Doctor ordered, beaming in reflection afterwards. “Listen to me. Don’t I sound like a proper starship captain!”
“Doc, what’s the plan for us once we get a hold of this ‘Infinity Stone’ thing?” Graham inquired. “Won’t it make us targets for that Thanos bloke to go after?”
“Thought about that, Graham,” the Doctor said. “I plan on gettin’ the stone out of this dimension and puttin’ it somewhere Thanos won’t be able to reach it.”
The Doctor’s plan sounded airtight and gave her friends (and even herself) the confidence of a 100% success rate. Unfortunately, upon arriving in Knowhere (the severed head of a deceased Celestial avatar that doubled as the home of a mining colony), the crew discovered much of the area – including the Collector’s museum – ravaged and in flames with several dead bodies littered all around.
It was clear who the culprit of the monstrous raid of the colony was.
“He has the Reality Stone,” the Doctor lamented.
“How could’ve he done all this damage with one stone?” Kermit pondered aloud.
“He didn’t just do this with the Reality Stone, Kermit,” the Doctor told him. “He has all four, remember? Power, Time, Space, and now Reality. Each of them carries a power that brings the Mad Titan that much closer to godhood.”
“Then all hope truly is lost,” Zhaan wept, falling to her knees. “Just like Delvia.”
Graham moved to comfort her. “It’ll be alright, love.”
A fire burnt inside of the Doctor, just as she heard Graham utter those words to Zhaan. “You’re right, Graham,” she accredited. “It will be alright. ‘Cause we haven’t lost yet – not the stones, not hope, not anything!”
“Sounds like you’ve got another plan,” Yaz deduced with a smile.
“I do, Yasmin Khan,” the Doctor said. “Thanos has been two steps ahead of us. So why don’t we move two steps behind him?” She noticed how baffled her complex idea made all her friends. “Ugh, don’t you lot get it?! We use the TARDIS to go back in time and get all the stones before Thanos does.”
Ryan finally understood but still expressed concern. “But you said we could never interfere with events of the past,” he told the Doctor.
“I already broke that rule once in Bilehurst Cragg, Ryan,” the Doctor recalled. “And now, just as then, I’m not gonna just stand and let this…” She gestured to the destruction all around them. “…happen to anyone else – not in this dimension or any other!”
Chapter 4: Together
“You wanna run that plan by us one more time, Doc?” Crichton made this request with a heavily skeptical tone. The Doctor could see it in all of their faces – the Moya crew, the Muppets, and her own fam. Her plan had to be the riskiest one she had ever thought up, but it was the only one they had.
“Alright, one more time,” she huffed in frustration. “We take one of the Infinity Stones from the present with us to the past: the Time Stone.”
“Right, we get that,” Graham interrupted. “But what I don’t get is why we need the one stone that lets you travel through time, when we already have the TARDIS?”
“Because, Graham,” the Doctor emphasized his name in a condescending voice, “my TARDIS isn’t of this dimension. I can’t willy-nilly jump about through time here without exhausting the TARDIS’s reserved energy. So I’m gonna need the Time Stone to give it the boost it needs.” She then paused, reflecting on one phrase she uttered in her clarification. “Willy-nilly. Ugh, don’t like that. I’m never saying it again.”
Despite her clarification, the group still had their concerns.
“It’s a solid plan, Doc,” Crichton said, “but there’s one major flaw: Thanos already has the Time Stone.”
And there was the part where she fretted to tell them, “Yeah…fully aware of that…it’s the one thing I didn’t wanna tell you.”
“Tell us what?” Yaz asked.
Scooter had already figured it out. “She, uh…wants us to take the stone from Thanos himself.” He gulped at the prospect, loud enough for those around him to hear.
“Aaaand I’m out,” Crichton was the first to resign. “It’s a suicide mission, Doc.”
“You’re right, it is,” the Doctor confessed, “which is why I’m doing it myself.”
The group was quick to object to this, but it was the tiny Robin whose little voice carried the loudest. “No! We’re not letting you! I don’t care what everyone else does, but I’m not gonna let you face that monster all by yourself!” He walked right up and stood by her, his diminutive size more apparent beside her taller frame. “The Doctor is our friend, and friends are stronger together.”
“Not strong enough against Thanos,” Crichton muttered under his breath, only to receive an elbow to his side by Aeryn. “Ow! What the hell?!”
“Quiet, the littler Kermit makes a good point,” Aeryn told him.
The Doctor was touched by Robin’s encouraging words and support. Impulsively, she knelt to envelop the small frog in literally the biggest hug he had ever received. “Thank you for that, Robin.”
“The kid’s right, Doc,” Graham spoke up. “We are stronger together.”
“And we won’t let you deal with Thanos alone,” Kermit boldly proclaimed before turning to Scooter, Fozzie, and Gonzo. “Right, guys?”
Scooter gathered his courage and stood with Kermit. “Right, boss.”
Fozzie and Gonzo, on the other hand, stood with Crichton on the matter. “Sorry, Kermit,” Fozzie said on their behalf, removing his hat and nervously fiddling with it in his furry grips. “You’ve seen what this Thanos guy’s capable of.” And then, unexpectedly, he changed his mind, in spite of his fears. “B-But Robin’s right, fellas,” he told Gonzo and Crichton. “The Doctor’s been there for us many times. We can’t abandon her now.”
Crichton couldn’t believe it took a bear in a pork pie hat to talk some sense into him. “The bear makes a reasonable point,” he admitted. “God, I must be outta my mind.”
The Doctor wiped away a tear that managed to leak out from the corner of her left eye. Don’t let ‘em see ya get all misty-eyed, Doctor…that’s what hugs are for…and you can’t hug everyone in this room, she mentally instructed herself. Once she was able to compose herself, she proceeded to use the TARDIS to locate Thanos and the Time Stone, pinpointing the location to Thanos’ homeworld of Titan.
Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff, Sam Wilson, Bruce Banner, and James Rhodes arrived in style to the witness of Miss Piggy and the Doctor. The team landed in a Quinjet, the signature aircraft for S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers (although neither faction was in service any longer). Miss Piggy and the Doctor got to see each of the passengers as they disembarked on the helipad.
“Is that scruffy bloke Captain America?” the Doctor observed of the former Avengers spearhead. “Blimey! I don’t know about that beard.”
“Oh, give him a break,” Piggy told him. “He’s been through a lot since becoming a fugitive from the government. Besides, he could look like Willie Nelson for all I care, as long as I get the first scoop on the meeting between King T’Challa and the Avengers.”
“Dey’re not Avengers anymore, h’okay,” said Pepe, who appeared out of nowhere with Beauregard. “Dey broke up like the Beatles…except the government was like Yoko Ono and Iron Man was John Lennon.”
“Quite the metaphor there,” the Doctor remarked.
“Uh, Miss Piggy?” Beauregard said whilst filming. “Should we even be recording the Not-Avengers, if they’re fugitives?”
“We’ll blur their faces in post!” Piggy griped. “Just keep rollin’!”
Beauregard did as he was told while the Doctor approached Rogers and his entourage. “Captain…may I still call you ‘Captain’? I feel like ‘Steve’ is a little too personal.”
Rogers questionably glanced up and down at the tall, thin man in the suit and tie. “I’m sorry. You are…?”
The Doctor completely forgot that he and the famed American hero had never properly met before. “Right, sorry.” He took Cap’s hand into his own for a handshake. “Name’s the Doctor.”
At this introduction, Romanoff recognized the individual in front of them. “You’re the one who rescued Wanda and Vision in Scotland.”
“We were briefed on you by Ciciley Livingston and Agent X,” Rogers said. “They mentioned something about a ‘dusty old British police box’ that’s actually a spaceship bigger on the inside?”
“Yeeeeah, that’d be my TARDIS,” the Doctor confirmed, trying not to be offended by the agents’ description of his ship.
Banner approached the Time Lord, standing close enough to examine his face. “Wait a sec. You’re the Doctor? Back in Manhattan, there was a blond woman in a blue-grey overcoat with Kermit the Frog, and she claimed to be ‘The Doctor’.”
The Doctor was slightly perturbed at this. “Dr. Banner, I assure you, whoever that woman is, she may be a doctor but she’s not the Doctor. I’m the definite article, you might say.” He was quick to return to business thereafter. “I’m also the man who plans on taking Vision and the Mind Stone off-world and out of your dimension.”
“Out of our dimension?” he heard Ciciley Livingston objectively say, manifesting on the helipad with Agent X and T’Challa. “Don’t be absurd.”
“You’ve seen my ship – the one you seem adamant in calling ‘dusty’,” the Doctor disputed. “You know that Vision and the stone are much safer with me than they are here where Thanos and his invasion force can easily reach them.”
“We’re more than capable of protecting Vision and keeping that stone from Thanos,” Ciciley firmly stated. “Why’re we even listening to you? As far as I’m concerned, you are a civilian here. So why don’t you just—” Her command was cut off just as a loud explosion erupted overhead.
Something tried to breach the energy dome that protected Wakanda’s Golden City. They soon discovered it to have been one of many alien dropships that made its rapid descent from space, landing in the forests outside the dome.
“The invasion has started,” the disconcerted Doctor said through gritted teeth.
Materializing on the desolated world of Titan in her TARDIS, the Doctor and her large group of friends exited from the ship and surveyed the ruined landscape. “If I came from a world like this, I’d turn into an evil megalomaniac myself,” Ryan reflected.
“Never judge a book by its cover, Ryan,” the Doctor passed on her wisdom. “Titan was once a beautiful planet, rich with people and resources that eventually ran out, due to overpopulation.” While considering this history, she surmised, “That’s what Thanos intends to do with the Stones: preventing other worlds from falling under the same ruin as Titan.”
“You say that like he’s the hero in all this,” Kermit hinted.
“No hero would do what Thanos did to Knowhere,” Robin contradicted. “That was horrible!”
“I wholeheartedly agree with ya, Robin,” the Doctor said. “Every megalomaniac – as Ryan cleverly described them – has their reason for doing the evil that they do. But, from their perspective, no matter what, they’ll always see their intentions as good.”
In the middle of the group’s excursion, they were stopped by a triangular metallic object that randomly landed in front of them. “What is that?” Graham inquired of it.
The device automatically opened like a blossomed flower, emitting a bluish light.
Right away, Crichton recognized what it was. “It’s a gravity mine! Take cover!” His warning came all too late, as the mine was triggered and pulled all of them towards it, bunching them all together.
“Wow! What a rush!” Gonzo exclaimed, smushed between D’Argo and Graham.
Using her sonic screwdriver, the Doctor shut off the gravity mine and gave everyone (herself included) their mobility back. It happened just as another group of individuals hostilely surrounded them. The Doctor was relieved to have seen them to be Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and a few members of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
“Oh,” the Doctor gasped. “You lot got your own team-up goin’?”
“Silence, woman!” Drax the Destroyer demanded. “We know Thanos sent you to kill us!”
“You are imbecilic as usual, Drax,” D’Argo insulted. “You and your so-called ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’.”
“Wait a sec,” uttered Peter Quill (a.k.a. “Star-Lord”), who deactivated his helmet to expose his dumbfounded (or just plain dumb) face. “What’re you guys doing here?”
“Same reason you assholes are here – Thanos,” Crichton retorted.
“You all know each other?” Yaz discerned of the exchange between teams.
“Unfortunately,” Aeryn told her. “We’ve crossed paths once or twice with the Guardians. Not surprised they’re here, considering they’re the ones responsible for Thanos obtaining the frellin’ Reality Stone.”
“That’s bullshit!” Quill barked. “He wouldn’t have gotten it if we’d been to Knowhere before him!”
“Really?” Crichton challenged. “Just the three of you? Thought there were more Guardians than what I’m seeing right now. No wonder you got your asses handed to y—” His insulting remarks earned him a swift punch to the face, delivered by Quill, inciting a brawl that their teammates had to break up.
Through the entire altercation, Fozzie and Graham detected noticeable similarities between the Guardians and the Moya crew. “They’re practically identical to each other,” Graham noted. “Both got human nits leading the squad.”
“Yeah, and both have aggressive stereotypes,” Fozzie added.
“Which one’s the aggressive stereotype?” Graham quizzed the bear.
Separated from Crichton, Quill screamed to his equal, “It wasn’t just the Reality Stone Thanos took! He took Gamora, too!”
“We will get her back, Mr. Star-Lord,” the Doctor reassured.
“It’s just ‘Star-Lord’,” Quill told her. “And how am I supposed to take your word for it, lady? I’m just supposed to accept it at face value, when I’ve never even seen your face before.”
“She’s the Doctor,” Robin vouched. “You can trust her.”
The Doctor graciously glanced at the little frog. Such a wonderfully supportive lad, that one.
“This feeble woman cannot possibly be the Doctor,” Drax negated. “The Doctor was an old white-haired man with a penis.” His description was a bit too literal for everyone, all of them issuing complaints at once.
“We talked about this, man,” Quill told the Destroyer. “Six words or less.”
“Drax the Destroyer, the walking thesaurus,” the Doctor identified of the Guardian member. “You have more than enough reason to destroy Thanos, after what he had done to Ovette and Kamaria.”
Drax stiffened at her knowledge of his personal history. “How do you know the names of my wife and daughter?”
“Told ya – I’m the Doctor.”
While the Guardians were overwhelmed with several questions as to how the young blonde was once the old Scotsman they knew, Crichton suddenly took notice in the fact that the wizard he saw abducted by the Black Order on Earth was now with the Guardians. “Hey,” he addressed him, “I would’ve figured Thanos had you and the Time Stone by now.”
“I was rescued – to put the term loosely – by these two,” Strange rigidly gestured to Iron Man and Spider-Man. “Though it was Stark’s grand scheme to take the fight to Thanos here on his turf.”
“What?!” the Doctor heard this. “That’s insane! There’s no surviving any fight with Thanos. It’s a no-win scenario.”
“Isn’t that what we’re here to do?” Gonzo indicated.
“Thankfully not,” the Doctor happily told the weirdo, “now that the Time Stone is still with Doctor Strange. He’ll give it to us. Right, Doctor?” She beamed at the irony of calling someone other than herself “Doctor” for a change.
“Wrong,” Strange answered.
The Doctor’s face fell on his refusal. “O.K. Wasn’t expectin’ that.”
“Grateful as I am with all you’ve helped me with in the past, Doctor, I cannot willingly give up the Time Stone, even to you,” Strange explained.
The Doctor maintained her courteousness as she counseled with the sorcerer. “I know you’ve recently used that stone to look into several possibilities of winning the fight with Thanos – fourteen million six hundred and five outcomes, correct?”
Stark was amazed at her accuracy. “That is astonishingly on the nose.”
“Thanks,” the Doctor fleetingly acknowledged before returning on Strange. “How many of those outcomes did we win?”
Strange paused for a long moment until he finally replied, “Two.”
“You told us you saw only one,” a baffled Tony Stark reiterated to the sorcerer.
“I did,” Strange admitted, “but the other outcome is too much of a risk to the multiverse.”
“It’s the Doctor, isn’t it?” Kermit construed. “Her presence here and now has changed everything.”
Strange confirmed the frog’s analysis with a firm nod.
“Trust me when I say that I know the risk,” the Doctor assured, “and I will do whatever’s necessary in preserving the multiverse when I’m finished.”
Despite this assurance, Strange remained very hesitant.
In that moment of hesitation, he and his fellow heroes heard the crackling of energy nearby and sensed a gust of wind blow past them. They all turned their attention to one area of the wasteland where a dark cloudy portal opened out of the thin air. From it emerged the Mad Titan himself, Thanos.
Chapter 5: Time
Through a pair of binoculars, Agent X watched the intense conflict that took place on the open Wakandan fields between the forces of Earth (led by Steve Rogers and T’Challa) and Thanos’ invading army. Most of that army consisted of creatures unlike anything X had seen before – mindless, savage soldiers with leathery black/yellow skin and four, clawed arms. They were the prime definition of “terror.”
Nonetheless, X wished she was down there on the battlefield to fight them…to defend her home. She wasn’t there for the “incident” in New York, back when she was still Agent Sean Livingston. Not that she would’ve been much help at the time, without the powers that she has now.
“We should be helping them,” X told Ciciley, who paced back and forth around Shuri’s lab on Mount Bashenga. “I should be helping them!”
“We need you up here with us, babe,” Ciciley denied. “You and Wanda are the most powerful ones on the team. We need your abilities to protect Vision while Shuri safely extracts that stone out of ‘im.”
“But Wanda’s really the more powerful one between the two of—”
X stopped mid-sentence as soon as Shuri urgently approached them. “That man – the Doctor – he has him in that blue box of his,” she alerted.
“Has who?” X inquired, but Ciciley had already guessed before X noticed her dashing out of the lab with her gun drawn. X chased after her, all the way back into T’Challa’s throne room where the Doctor’s TARDIS still stood. Its doors were left open, allowing the two agents to run right in and catch the Doctor with Wanda, Piggy, Pepe, Animal, and Beauregard at his side. Vision was nowhere to be seen.
“Where is he?!” Ciciley demanded to know, taking aim for the Doctor’s head.
Needless to say, the Doctor was not at all pleased to be the one staring down the barrel of Ciciley’s Screaming Eagle. “Agent Livingston, I feel it’s in my nature to tell you that I have a strict rule when it comes to GUNS IN MY TARDIS!!” He raised his voice with such ferocity that it made Ciciley twitch a bit, nearly pulling the trigger.
“Hey, hey,” Pepe said, peaceably raising all four of his arms. “Let’s chill out here. No reasons tah lose our heads, okay.”
“I have to agree with the shrimp on this one, Moms,” X told Ciciley.
Ciciley didn’t let up. Her focus on the Doctor remained, until it was obscured by a red leather corset. She then realized Wanda stood in between them, blocking Ciciley’s aim. “It was my decision to trust him with Vision,” Wanda told her.
“Wanda, how can you trust a man you’ve only just met?” X asked.
“Because he saved us when no one else did… not even Steve, Natasha, or Sam.”
X attempted to make a counterargument before they all heard a skirmish happening outside, right in Shuri’s lab. Ciciley and X quickly abandoned their mission in reacquiring Vision from the Doctor in favor of assisting Shuri and the Dora Milaje stationed there with whatever threat infiltrated the lab.
Unfortunately, the Doctor restricted their exit by shutting the doors to his ship.
“The hell are you doing?!” Ciciley roared to the Time Lord. “Let us out!”
“I can’t!” the Doctor refused. “If that’s what I think it is, then your plan to keep Thanos’ army from the Mind Stone has failed!” He proceeded to run around the hexagonal control console at the center of the room, flipping switches and turning knobs. “Our only hope is to transport Vision and the stone to another place in time!”
The hums and grinds that denoted the TARDIS’s dematerialization process reverberated around them. Ciciley flew into blind rage at this, refusing to allow this Doctor character to take them and Vision away, leaving their friends and allies at the mercy (or lack thereof) of Thanos and his invasion.
She took aim once again, this time for the TARDIS control console.
“Doctor! Look out!” Piggy warned, having noticed the agent’s action.
Hearing Piggy’s warning, the Doctor turned to see Ciciley aiming for the console. But he was too late to do anything. Ciciley fired a single bullet from her Screaming Eagle that tore through the console. Sparks shot from it as the entire ship careened out of control, knocking everyone off their feet.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!” the Doctor screamed to the woman responsible for their plight within the time vortex.
“Blimey! He’s a lot bigger than I thought he would be!”
Graham’s astute observation correlated with those of the Doctor and the others there on Titan with them, as they looked towards Thanos. He stood a great distance from them in a rather tranquil sort of way, patiently anticipating their first move.
The Doctor took a step forward towards the Titan.
Then she stopped and looked back to her friends, the Avengers, the Guardians, the Moya crew, and Doctor Strange. “None of you make any sort of advance on him,” she instructed. “Anyone does anything, you’ll have more than Thanos to fear.”
“You got it,” Gonzo obliged on everyone’s behalf. “Just one thing: it’s not Thang-nose, it’s Thang-nosh.”
The Doctor cringed at the weirdo. “What?”
“It’d been bugging me since we left Earth where you first said it,” Gonzo muttered on. “I mean, I know it’s your accent, but I just had to…”
“Gonzo!” Kermit flailed in annoyance. “Now is not the time!”
Shaking off Gonzo’s ill-timed lesson in pronunciation, the Doctor refocused her attention on the Mad Titan. She immediately turned on her charm as she addressed him: “Thang-nose! I’ve been anxious to meet ya in person like this. I’m the Doctor.”
“I don’t care,” Thanos coldly remarked. “I’m not here to prattle with an inconsequential woman.”
The Doctor’s face fell at his insulting remark. “Ouch. I felt that one.”
Nearby, Robin whispered to his uncle, “What does ‘inconsequential’ mean?”
Kermit couldn’t believe that was all his nephew got from the tense confrontation happening in front of them. First Gonzo, now Robin. Could neither of them grasp the gravity of the situation at hand? Regardless, Kermit gave a brief but helpful response: “I-It means ‘not important’, Robin.”
He hoped that would be enough to put the little frog’s mind at ease.
Until Robin blurted out to Thanos himself, “She’s not inconsequential! She’s more ‘consequential’ than you are!”
Not even the Doctor could believe how brave Robin was to speak to Thanos that way. As much as she appreciated the thought of his support (and he’s been a huge support in every step that led to this moment on Titan), she silently wished he had kept his mouth shut.
“Silence, child,” ordered Thanos, who didn’t necessarily raise his voice to the little frog but spoke with enough strictness to get his authority across. “You know nothing of my affairs.”
The Doctor took offense to his retort. “O.K. Firstly, don’t speak to my friend that way. He has more wisdom in his lil’ body than you do in that big purple dome of yours. We’ve seen firsthand what your ‘affairs’ are like in Taneleer Tivan’s museum – or what’s left of it – on Knowhere. It looks like somethin’ from a baby with a bad tantrum.”
Her talking down to Thanos prompted all eyes to concentrate on her, including Doctor Strange’s. Only he gazed more closely at her and noticed how she made a “give me” hand gesture behind her back. It was clearly meant for him, still wanting him to relinquish the Time Stone to her. Strange nonetheless hesitated, clasping the Eye of Agamotto, in which the stone was contained.
Thanos, finally losing patience, commanded the Doctor, “Stand aside!”
As he advanced towards the Doctor and her group, he was suddenly blindsided by an incoming spacecraft – a Necrocraft from what the Doctor could tell of its make. Its pilot they soon discovered to be Nebula, Thanos’s other daughter. Unfortunately, the attack wasn’t enough to bring down the Titan, who retaliated afterward with the use of his Infinity Gauntlet and the few stones that were embedded in it.
The Avengers, the Guardians, the Moya crew, and Doctor Strange engaged in battle with Thanos, while the Doctor led Yaz, Ryan, Graham, Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter, and Robin back into her TARDIS.
“Well, that’s just wizard, is it?” Graham griped. “How’re we supposed to get the Time Stone now with that Strange fella usin’ it to fight the Big Purple People Eater out there?!”
“He doesn’t have it, Graham,” the Doctor said, right before she held out her hand, with the Time Stone sitting on her palm, much to the surprise of her companions and the Muppets.
“How did you get it?” Scooter inquired. “We never saw Strange hand it to you.”
“He willingly did while I was trash-talkin’ Thanos,” the Doctor revealed, wasting no time in inserting the Time Stone through a slot on the TARDIS control console, fusing it with the ship’s main power. It instantly took effect as all the crystals and structure of the room switched from an orange hue to a green one that corresponded with the stone.
Kermit nodded in approval. “Hmm. Nice ambiance.”
Strange hoped that “Doctor” woman knew what she was doing with the Time Stone. He entrusted her with it, not because he actually trusted her – he needed to hide it from Thanos. Their fight with him was overwhelming, with both the Guardians and the Moya crew submitted only minutes into the battle. With the few stones he possessed, Thanos was virtually unbeatable.
That didn’t stop Strange from using every trick he learned in his time with the Masters of the Mystic Arts to engage in a power duel with the Mad Titan. He launched the first strike, casting Eldritch energy that Thanos avoided by leaping into the air and blasting energy from the Power Stone. Strange countered, opening a gateway into the Mirror Dimension to absorb the beam before pushing the gateway at Thanos in a bid to trap him.
Thanos destroyed the gateway with the Power Stone, throwing remnants of it back at Strange in the form of a destructive black hole with the Space Stone. Thinking fast, Strange casted a spell to transmute the singularity into a swarm of butterflies – an act that momentarily baffled the Titan. Taking advantage of the distraction, Strange used his magic to multiply himself to restrain Thanos with hundreds of Eldritch whips, only for Thanos to activate the Soul and Power Stones simultaneously to destroy the false images and stagger Strange.
Thanos pulled Strange in towards him, utilizing the Power and Space Stones before the sorcerer could react. “You’re full of tricks, wizard,” Thanos mocked, as he had Strange clasped by the throat. “Yet you never once used your greatest weapon.” He ripped the Eye of Agamotto off its chain, crushing it in his bare hand. The pieces fell, but there was no stone inside. “A fake.”
As Thanos crushed the Eye, he looked beyond his hand and spotted something that stood out from the barren wasteland that was once his home planet: a blue box. It was pristine in condition, practically brand new, unlike the rusted, broken debris that floated throughout the atmosphere.
Then it occurred to the Mad Titan: where was that woman – the one who meagerly tried to distract me from my objective?
He tossed Strange aside with enough force that rendered the sorcerer unconscious when his head struck a stone. Then Thanos rushed for the blue box, knowing it to be where his prize was. But, just as he closed in on it, a red-and-gold armored figure landed with a hard metallic thud right in front of him, barring his path to the blue box.
“You wanna take the stone from the hot blonde in the space box?” Stark challenged him, sounding just about done with the Titan. “You’re gonna have to go through me!”
“You know me?”
“I do. You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.”
“My only curse is you.”
With the power of the Time Stone officially bonded with her TARDIS, the Doctor was just about to pull the lever that would dematerialize it off Titan and into the time vortex, taking them to the past to get the other stones before Thanos did. She hated leaving behind the heroes that bravely kept Thanos at bay. Of course, once her plan worked, none of them would be left there on Titan…and neither would Thanos himself.
As she was about to pull down the lever, something busted through the doors of her TARDIS and skidded to a halt across the floor.
His nanite-powered armor was in shambles, partially damaged, exposing his bruised, bloodied body.
The Doctor was just as frozen in horror as the others, seeing the armored Avenger in such a state. She rapidly snapped out of it, just as she spotted Thanos leaping for her TARDIS. Instinctively, she yanked down on the lever of her console at the same time Thanos clung his gargantuan form onto the Gallifreyan vessel.
By then, they were already moving through the time vortex.
Thanos reached in with his gauntlet-clad arm, only to begin suffering the dangerous effects from exposure to the vortex itself. His deep purple skin blackened and hardened across the left side of his face, as well as his upper half of his left arm. He howled in agony before losing consciousness and ultimately falling off from the TARDIS, left floating lifelessly through the vortex.
With him gone, the Doctor instructed to Ryan and Graham, “Help me get the doors back up!” The two men did as she said, taking the detached police box doors and holding them up while she used her sonic screwdriver to secure them back on their hinges, avoiding anyone else from floating out into the vortex.
Yaz, Robin, and Kermit tended to the beaten and unconscious Tony Stark.
“Thanos really did a number on him,” Kermit noted.
“Is he going to be okay?” Robin asked.
The Doctor did a quick scan of Stark’s body with her sonic. Relief washed over her face once she looked on the device for the results. “He’s still alive – that nanotech armor of his took the brunt of the punishment,” she said. “I’m glad we have at least one Avenger with us on our search for the other stones.”
“Uh, Doc?” Graham called. “You should see this.”
From his pessimistic tone, the Doctor assumed it to have been bad news. She turned to where she left Graham and Ryan after securing the TARDIS doors, and she saw them kneeling over a large golden object that sat on the console room floor. “Wait a sec,” she uttered in disbelieving recognition. “Is that…?”
Sure enough, it was.
Thanos’s Infinity Gauntlet.
“Well, it was nice of him to leave us his big shiny glove,” Fozzie said.
If that was a joke the bear was making, then it certainly brought a smile to the Doctor’s face for once. Unfortunately, her smile didn’t last for very long, as she discovered one stone missing from the gauntlet. Whereas the Reality, Soul, and Power Stones were now in their possession, Thanos still managed to hold onto one for himself: the Space Stone.
Chapter 6: London
You know me?
I do. You’re not the only one cursed with knowledge.
My only curse is you.
It wasn’t a nightmare; it was a memory. Several of them played like a bad clip show in Stark’s subconscious. The Chitauri invasion, flying through the wormhole while carrying a nuclear missile, and – worst of all – losing his battle with Thanos. He still felt all the hits, mostly the ones that busted through his armor.
The memory of that last critical blow snapped him awake.
At first, he thought he was still on Titan…or dead. But the space felt different. It was more accommodating than the planet’s harsh, gravity-light climate. He was even lying in a cushy bed.
Then there was the banjo soothingly being strummed.
Tony tried sitting up to see who was playing. It was difficult at first, even while stripped of his armor – having been punched by a giant purple alien tended to leave some nasty damages, but thankfully nothing serious. As much pain as he had been through since the days of having shrapnel piercing his heart, nothing could’ve been worse.
The individual serenading on the banjo was someone more famous than him.
Kermit the Frog.
He was sitting on a stool inside the Victorian-style bedroom Tony awoke in, albeit with white walls that had a roundel pattern design. The frog had been strumming the first few chords of “Rainbow Connection” during the duration of Stark’s unconscious state, until he finally looked up and saw him alert.
“Ah, you’re awake,” he said. “We wondered when you would be.”
“Yeah,” Tony groaned. “I wondered that, too. How long have I been out?”
“That doesn’t sound so bad.”
“Uh, you didn’t let me finish. What I meant to say was ‘Seven hours, five days, and ten weeks’.”
Stark found the duration just as bewildering as the way in which it was delivered. “You know, normally people start with the weeks first before going into the days and hours,” he told Kermit. “The whole ‘biggest to smallest’ thing.”
He proceeded to get out of bed – something that Kermit didn’t agree with.
“I wouldn’t move around too much, Mr. Stark,” the frog advised.
“Being out for ten weeks, five days, and seven hours, I feel that I’m inclined to move around as much as I please, Mr. the Frog.” Stark stumbled on his first step out of bed, prompting Kermit to set aside his banjo and offer himself as a crutch, even though Tony was twice his size.
Whoever’s job it was to get Tony out of his armor made extra sure to keep him comfortable, as even his shoes were removed, exposing them to the ice-cold steel flooring (which seemed to vibrate beneath the soles of Stark’s feet). The only attire he had on was his hoodie, his black shirt with the detachable arc reactor still attached to his chest, and the matching black slacks.
“Where is it you’re trying to get to?” Kermit asked him, struggling to maintain Stark’s balance.
“To see the Doctor,” Tony replied.
“A doctor or the doctor?”
“That unbelievably attractive English blonde in the trench coat and rainbow-striped shirt. I want to see her.”
Obliging to the Iron Man’s demands, Kermit guided him through the complex structure of the TARDIS. Winding through so many endless twists and turns, there was no way Tony would’ve managed to navigate it alone. He wondered how long Kermit himself traveled in it to know his way around. Then again, Muppets were adaptable to crazy environments.
They finally made it to the console room – the last room Tony remembered being in before he lost consciousness. Its alien, crystalline structure was spellbinding to his tech-savvy eyes. The real beauty, of course, stood at the center of the room with the main control console.
When she noticed Tony entering with Kermit, the Doctor smiled. “Oh, hello, Mr. Stark! Glad to see you up! We wondered when you would be.”
“Was there a bet going?” Tony inquired.
The Doctor didn’t quite catch his drift. “I beg your pardon?”
Looking past her, Stark was surprised to see Thanos’s big, shiny gauntlet situated upon the control console. “How did you guys do it?”
“Do what?” Kermit asked.
“Take the big purple sociopath himself down,” Stark clarified.
The Doctor followed his gaze on the gauntlet, finally understanding. “Oh! No…well, yes, but we didn’t do it. He did it to himself. Got sucked into the time vortex. Unfortunately, he took the Space Stone with him. But don’t worry…we still have four: Time, Power, Soul, and Reality.”
“That just leaves the Space and Mind Stones,” Stark figured.
“Right,” the Doctor concurred. “Luckily, we’ve pinpointed their location to one place in time: 1981 London.”
“Wait a sec, I recognize that time and place,” Kermit beamed. “That’s the time of the Baseball Diamond Caper – when Fozzie, Gonzo, and I were reporters for The Daily Chronicle and covered a story on the wealthy Lady Holiday.”
“Nice exposition,” Stark complimented.
“Thanks,” Kermit remarked.
“You three weren’t the only ones there, Kermit,” the Doctor clarified. “I was there with a couple of friends of my own…and you’ll never guess who else was there.”
The Happiness Hotel seemed to be getting a lot of business in a single day. Pops, the hotel owner, had already greeted a trio of peculiar characters: a frog, a bear, and some kind of weird blue chicken-thing carrying a camera and snapping away at everything in sight. They literally crashed in a taxicab – the hole was still in the lobby wall.
Then there arrived three more new occupants: a young blonde, a young boy, and a man dressed in burgundy attire that included a fedora, a long coat, and an even longer scarf. Pops heard the man’s two young friends address him as “Doctor.”
“Doctor, eh?” the hotel owner said. “Ya mind lookin’ at somethin’ that’s been botherin’ me all week? I can’t seem tuh figure out what might be the—”
“I’m afraid we haven’t the time, my friend,” the Doctor interjected. “We won’t be staying long, just long enough to work with a couple of scientists whose help we need: Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant, Beaker.”
“You mean those two yahoos on the third floor?” Pops asked.
“Yahoos?” the Doctor’s young male friend repeated. “What’s a ‘yahoo’?”
“And what are those?”
Seeing no end in sight to Adric’s curiosity of the terms (he was a mathematician, not a wordsmith), the Doctor’s other friend (the young blonde) hurriedly told Pops, “We’ll just take the key to our room now.”
“Thank you, Romana,” the gracious Doctor acknowledged.
“I’ll take mine as well.”
All heads turned to a gentleman who stood behind the Doctor and his companions. A tall, lanky man with pale skin and shoulder-length hair that was as black as the clothes he wore. Adric picked up a foreboding vibe just from looking at him.
“Boy-oh-boy, you folks are comin’ out of the woodwork, ain’t ya?” Pops said.
He handed the Doctor and the darkly-dressed gentleman their hotel keys, and the bellhop rats showed them their rooms. The long-haired gentleman was staying directly across from the Doctor and his friends. As soon as he was in his room, he dismissed the rats, “That’ll be all.”
One of the rodents purposefully cleared his throat, sticking his tiny hand out.
The gentleman scoffed as he noticed the gesture. “Might I offer you a tip in another variety: Never beg for what you can simply take for yourself.”
“Stay here long enough and I just might, buddy,” the rat warned prior to leaving.
Alone in his hotel room, the darkly-dressed gentleman changed his apparel, but not in the manner most normal people did. His black suit shimmered in a bright golden hue, morphing into a royal garb complete with a horned headdress. Two items also manifested in his hands: a long scepter with a gem embedded in its sharp bladed tip and a cube that sparked with blue cosmic energy.
Let’s see what London of 1981 has to offer the God of Mischief.
Chapter 7: Christmas
There was a space between the Time Vortex and the infinite dimensional corridor; a treacherous space that was presumably unexplored to any known being in the multiverse. This space was where the Doctor’s TARDIS careened out of control, after Ciciley Livingston’s bullet tore into the control console.
The Doctor fought to regain control over his ship. Ciciley did a number on the console. A section of it was fried from the gunshot, but it was nothing the Doctor couldn’t repair later when the worst was past them. That, however, seemed to be eons away, as the Doctor couldn’t get the TARDIS to respond to his commands.
“Let me try,” he heard Wanda say. Other than Vision, who might as well have been bolted to the floor (not budging an inch amid all the turbulence), she was the only other one who wasn’t panicking or holding on for dear life. She waved her arms around in the motion she commonly did whilst channeling her reality-based powers, her eyes glowing in correspondence with the color of the energy she manipulated.
Within seconds, the Doctor’s TARDIS stabilized, stilling everyone and everything. “De crazy witch-lady did it,” Pepe exclaimed with a victorious laugh.
“My name is Wanda, and you’re welcome.”
The Doctor quickly landed his ship, bringing it out from the dimensional plane that it detoured into. After doing so, he surveyed his companions, both Muppet and Avengers alike. “Is everyone alright?” he asked them.
“Define ‘alright’!” Piggy grumbled, straightening her long blond locks. “We wouldn’t’ve been in that hot mess, if it weren’t for the psycho lady with the gun!”
Upon Piggy’s reference to Ciciley, the Doctor suddenly noticed, “Where is the psycho lady with the gun?” He and the others discovered that neither she nor Agent X were in the console room.
“Where could they have gone?” Vision asked.
Not even the Doctor was certain. “We were fluctuating between dimensions after the console was literally shot.” It was an act that still angered him. “This is why I hate guns and never allow one to be brought aboard the TARDIS!”
“Good riddance to bad rubbish, is what I say,” Piggy said. “Are we still in Wakanda or not?”
The Doctor himself was anxious enough to see for himself if they were. He rushed out through the TARDIS doors with Piggy, Wanda, Vision, Pepe, Animal, and Beauregard following him. Together, they stepped out into a Victorian setting at night. Picking up on certain scents in the atmosphere, as well as all the snow that covered the buildings and streets, the Doctor accurately deduced, “19th century London on Christmas Eve.”
“You got all that just from sniffing the air?” the disbelieving Wanda inquired.
“That much, and I also recognize it from my many visits to this period during this time of the year,” the Doctor beamed with a smile. “I know my way around these parts.” His smile fell as he looked on Vision and the Muppets. “Though I fear the locals might not take to an android and a talking pig, shrimp, whatever Animal is, and a…Beauregard, what are you anyway?”
“I’m the cameraman,” Beauregard said, still recording. “Should I keep filming?”
“Yes!” Piggy snapped at him before she turned to the Doctor and said, “I’m certain the locals would not mind bestowing on moi’s magnificence.” She posed for no one in particular.
“Well, I would not want to frighten anyone with my appearance, so…” Vision commenced in camouflaging his android form, willfully generating a synthetic skin construct that made him look entirely human. His clothing was modeled after that of the 21st century, mostly to keep Wanda from feeling stuck-out with hers.
“It’s like we’re back in Scotland,” she told him, momentarily lost in his human eyes.
The travelers wandered through the Victorian town. While doing so, Pepe indicated the lack of activity in the streets. “Where is everybodies?” the king prawn asked.
“It’s Christmas Eve, remember?” Piggy said. “They’re probably all at home.”
“Not all of them,” Vision motioned his head towards one spot in a pile of garbage where a small shivering figure was nestled.
“Oh, no,” Wanda took pity on the creature. “Poor thing.”
She approached the shivering figure, seeing that it was a bunny bundled underneath a used newspaper. But, as Piggy and Pepe suddenly noticed, this wasn’t any normal bunny. “It’s Beanie Buns!” Pepe (half-correctly) identified. It did, of course, debunk the Doctor’s assumption of this dimension not having any Muppet residents.
“It’s Bean Bunny,” the Muppet bunny corrected the king prawn. “And I hate to be rude, but would you people leave me alone? I haven’t had such a good day.”
“Can’t imagine it being any better sleeping in rubbish,” the Doctor said.
“Well, I wouldn’t have to, if wealthy people like Ebenezer Scrooge just gave to the poor and unfortunate like me,” Bean retorted.
The Doctor’s ears tickled at the name Bean uttered. “What did you say?”
“I said, if wealthy people like Ebenezer Scrooge would just—”
“We need to get back to the TARDIS,” the Doctor urgently instructed his companions. “We didn’t just arrive in a 19th century London with Muppets – we’ve arrived in a ‘Muppet Christmas Carol’ reality!”
“Awe,” Wanda gushed. “How cute.”
“Not to me, it isn’t,” the Doctor refuted. “We need to leave before we disrupt the flow of events within this dimension.” He started leading the group away from Bean, who Wanda couldn’t leave without giving her coat to keep the small Muppet bunny warm. She smiled and waved goodbye, a gesture that Bean graciously returned, before catching up with the others.
They were only a few feet from the TARDIS when…
“Emily Cratchit, what’re you doing all this way from home?!” A character that bore a striking resemblance to one Kermit the Frog, adorned in Victorian garb, stepped right in their path.
“Kermie?” Piggy addressed him.
The frog’s face scrunched in confusion. “Kermie? Emily, it’s me. Your husband, Bob…Bob Cratchit.” Piggy heard the word “husband” and the world around her deafened, save for Bob’s voice. “What’re you doing here? You should be at home, watching our children!”
“Chil…dren?” Piggy’s voice trailed, ensnared in a deep trance.
“Piggy, listen to me,” the Doctor interjected. “No matter what you might think, the man in front of you is not Kermit!”
“Of course, I’m not!” Bob retorted. “Emily, who are all these people?”
“We have…chil-dren,” the entranced Piggy mumbled.
“Yes, two beautiful daughters and two handsome sons – one of whom I was on my way to pick up before I ran into you in this dead of the night,” Bob said. “Now, please return home. You must get back to cooking and cleaning, if we wish to have supper prepared in time for Tiny Tim.”
One could’ve heard a record scratch in Piggy’s head as soon as she heard those two words: “Cooking? Cleaning?!”
“Yes, as every wife does on Christmas Eve,” Bob added.
Piggy fumed. “MOI COOKS AND CLEANS FOR NO ONE!”
She delivered the most epic of all karate chops on Bob Cratchit, sending the frog soaring through the air, crashing through a snowman, and smacking against the nearest brick wall. His battered body slumped into an open alleyway barrel.
Piggy’s assault caught everyone by surprise – and more or less displeased the Doctor. “Remember what I said about disrupting the flow of events in this dimension?” he reiterated in frustration.
He herded them all back into his TARDIS. Just as they were about to depart from the dimension, they heard a familiar voice outside their party say, “You can’t leave! Not when everything’s been ruined!” They turned to one of the corners of the console room and noticed a Victorian-dressed Gonzo and Rizzo standing there.
“Gonzo? Ritzo?” Pepe reacted to their random entrance.
“Yo!” Rizzo responded to the king prawn. “I don’t know ya, but I’m sure in another life, we’re good friends.”
“Jou owe me fifty monies, h’okay,” Pepe said.
Rizzo cringed. “O.K., maybe not-so-good friends.”
“That’s not the important thing right now!” Gonzo groaned. “Look, I may appear to be this ‘Gonzo’ you know in your dimension, but in this one, I am Charles Dickens, and you’ve ruined this version of A Christmas Carol!”
The Doctor snickered. “You’re Charles Dickens?”
“That’s correct,” Dickens proudly verified.
“No, no, I’ve met Charles Dickens, and I don’t remember him having blue fur and a hooked nose.” The Doctor then reconsidered his statement. “O.K., he did have a bit of a hooked nose but definitely not blue fur.”
“You met a Charles Dickens,” Dickens told the Doctor, “but not the Charles Dickens, who I happen to be. I’m the definite article, you might say.”
“Careful holdin’ up dat ego, Mister Dickens,” Rizzo teased. “Ya might bust yer back.”
Going along with it, the Doctor asked, “Alright, ‘Mister Dickens,’ what brings you aboard my TARDIS? Matter of fact, how did you get into my TARDIS?!”
“Again, not the real problem at hand,” Dickens deflected. “Your presence here in this world has disrupted the story of A Christmas Carol.”
“Yes, we know,” the Doctor belligerently remarked. “Why do you think we’re leaving now?”
“Leaving won’t help,” Dickens said. “You all must course-correct the events that precede the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge.”
“Say what now?!” an annoyed Piggy blurted.
The Doctor rubbed his face, his aggravations boiling over. “Blimey! You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Vision and Wanda, on the other hand, were overjoyed at the opportunity.
“Perhaps I could play the role of ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’,” Vision volunteered. “With Wanda’s help, of course.”
As much as he was against the idea, the Doctor saw no other alternative, unable to allow a reality to be destroyed by their actions. “It’s like I always say, ‘Parallel universe equals gingerbread house,’” he moaned.
“Did somebody say ‘gingerbread house’?” Rizzo thought with his stomach again. Needless to say, the Doctor wasn’t amused that was all the rat heard in his gripe.
Ebenezer Scrooge awoke to the grinding and humming that resounded through his bedchamber. Opening the drapes that hung around his bed, he spotted a peculiar blue box that materialized in the room. A set of doors opened from it and out stepped two figures – a young redheaded woman and an entity with a long, flowing gold cape.
“Ebenezer Scrooge,” the caped entity spoke, his voice hollowed and booming.
“Are you the spirits that have come to visit me?” Scrooge asked.
The redheaded woman nodded. “Yes, we are.”
“I was told by Jacob and Robert Marley that only one of you would come to see me first,” Scrooge indicated.
The two figures momentarily looked to each other, as if trying to come up with some sort of excuse. The best that the caped entity could say was, “There’s been a…um…change of plan.”
The young redhead moved in on Scrooge, twiddling her fingers near his head.
“Wh-What’re you doing?!” he asked her.
“Just relax, Ebenezer,” she told him. “And watch your past unfold before you.”
Scrooge’s eyes glowed in the same dark reddish hue as the mist of energy that swirled into his head, falling into a hypnotic spell. He then reacted in varying degrees of emotions, running happily towards people that weren’t actually there and crying as he witnessed a depressing memory.
Rizzo and Dickens watched the whole thing from the doorway of the Doctor’s TARDIS. “Dat’s just creepy,” the rat observed, and Dickens was at liberty to agree with him. Nonetheless, Wanda Maximoff’s mental manipulation over Scrooge proved to be effective so far.
Further inside the TARDIS, the Doctor had prepped his ship for its role as “Ghost of Christmas Present,” when he detected a series of beeps emitting from the control console. He only knew such beeps to emit when there was a distress call. Pushing one of the buttons, he answered it. A beam of light shot out from the console and projected a holographic image across from it. The Doctor could hardly believe the image he saw was that of Tony Stark, a.k.a. “Iron Man.”
“Hey, Doc…man, it feels weird calling you that, knowing this message was from you to you,” Stark babbled, clearly not making any sense. “Let me start from the beginning, ‘cause I’m trying not to channel too much Princess Leia into this message, but you are our only hope, Obi-Wan. Things have gone full-on F.U.B.A.R. and we need the Doctor. And I don’t mean the hot blond Doctor…we need you…whoever or whatever Doctor you are. I’ve transmitted the dimensional coordinates you’ve provided for yourself in this message. So, uh, good luck…and hope you pull through for us.”
The message ended with a freeze frame of Stark’s smirking face.
The Doctor couldn’t begin to fathom how Tony Stark of all people managed to deliver a message to him through his TARDIS. He only knew that this “Christmas Carol” reenactment needed to be cut short. Immediately, he rushed out of the TARDIS and told Wanda and Vision, “Wrap it up! We need to leave!”
“What?!” Dickens protested. “No, no! The story cannot be rushed, otherwise there’d be dire consequences.”
The Doctor tried to maintain his composure. “With all due respect, Mister Dickens – and I’m trying awfully hard to call you that while I’m looking at Gonzo’s face, but there are much bigger things happening here than your adaptation of a literary classic!” He then instructed Wanda, “Just move on with showing him his future.”
Wanda twiddled her fingers again, and the energy mist intensified.
All of the sudden, Scrooge suffered a nervous breakdown. He dropped to the floor, balled up in a fetal position and frenetically weeping.
“Yeesh! I think you mightuh overdid it,” Rizzo said.
“What did you do to him?!” the hysterical Dickens asked.
Curiously, the Doctor crouched beside the mentally-disturbed Scrooge, placing a single hand on Ebenezer’s forehead to telepathically see the images Wanda implanted in his psyche. What he saw was so bleak that it appalled even him. “Wanda!” he cried, looking to the Avenger. “Why did you have to show him that?!”
“Show him what?” Dickens inquired.
Wanda sheepishly shrugged. “That’s how it was in the story.”
“What did you show him?!” Dickens again inquired with more fervor.
“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry,” was all the Doctor told him before he, Wanda, and Vision retreated into his TARDIS and vanished, leaving Dickens and Rizzo standing over the quivering Scrooge.
“Wow,” Rizzo muttered. “I enjoyed the movie way better than dis. I bet youse probably floored with dis version of duh story, ain’t ya, Charlie?” He glanced over at Dickens and was surprised to see him dialing on a smartphone. “Hey, hey! What’s goin’ on here? Dere ain’t no phones in dis century!”
“I’m only using it ‘cause this is an emergency,” Dickens remarked.
“Well, who ya callin’?”
“The Time Variance Authority. That ‘Doctor’ and his friends are a menace to the entire multiverse as we know it.”
Chapter 8: Loki
“It astounds me that out of all people whose paths you would cross, one of them just happened to have been Thor’s brother – the God of Mischief himself,” Tony reacted to the Doctor’s recap of her previous visit in 1981 London to the group. “It didn’t seem odd to you that a guy dressed like the Great Prince of the Forest checked into a rat-infested hotel?”
“If we’re being honest, Mr. Stark, she would’ve noticed the bellhop rats first,” Kermit noted.
The Doctor shrugged. “I had no idea it was him at the time. But I do remember him having possession of the Mind and Space Stones.”
“Wait, certain facts aren’t lining up here,” Stark stated. “Loki didn’t have the scepter or the Tesseract until 2012.”
“Yeah, I’ve been meanin’ to tell ya,” the Doctor said, “while you were recuperatin’, we’ve discovered all of time and reality has shifted since we left Titan. It’s made it difficult for me to pinpoint the location of the remaining stones. Someone in one of the timelines has apparently been mucking around with time itself.”
“Says the woman with the time machine,” Stark rebuffed.
The Doctor scoffed. “Just for that, I’m takin’ away your gold star.”
Tony didn’t quite understand the reference. “When did you reward me with one?”
“It’s a thing she does, mate,” Ryan told Tony. “Just roll with it.”
Refocusing on the main topic of their discussion, the Doctor pondered aloud, “Whatever’s the source of the time-travel, it’s much stronger than my TARDIS. Regardless of that, we have to get Loki and obtain the last two Infinity Stones.” She then proceeded to use a phone Yaz loaned to her, giving it a small upgrade with her sonic screwdriver, and dialed in a series of numbers.
“Who’re ya calling, Doctor?” Scooter asked.
The Doctor held up one index finger to Scooter, signifying that she needed a moment as she heard ringing on the other line. After a few seconds, the voice of an old codger answered with a slight country accent, “You’ve reached the Happiness Hotel. If ya ain’t got no cents, this is the place ya wanna be, ‘cause it’s free.”
The Doctor recognized the voice as that of Pops, the owner of the Happiness Hotel, who checked him, Romana, and Adric in all those years ago. “Hi-ya, Pops,” she greeted the old Muppet. “Is Adric there?”
“Who?” the baffled Pops remarked.
Of course, he wouldn’t know who Adric is – he only just met him! The Doctor rationalized. She then clarified for the elderly Muppet man, “Just a short moment ago, you checked in three people: a man with a long scarf, a girl, and a boy.”
“Oh, yeah!” Pops comprehended. “Funny-lookin’ characters – especially the one with the scarf.
“Yeah, I had a bit of a fashion crisis at the time,” the Doctor admitted. “Anyway, can you put Adric on the phone for me?”
“That depends: which one’s Adric?”
The Doctor groaned, though she did it away from the phone, so that Pops wouldn’t hear. She gathered herself and again clarified, “The boy who’s with the man with the ridiculous scarf!”
“Oh, yeah!” Pops uttered in the exact same comprehending tone as before. “Sure, I’ll get ‘im for ya.” The Doctor was relieved to hear this, until Pops once again asked, “What’s his name again?”
If it hadn’t been Yaz’s phone she was using, the Doctor would’ve hurled it across the console room.
“Gentlemen, it’s imperative that we get this right. I wouldn’t want the TARDIS – or us – to be split into atoms on the first trip.”
Bunsen and Beaker were impressed by the vast, complex knowledge this man who called himself “Doctor” maintained beneath all those curls on his head. Since the Doctor, Romana, and Adric checked into the hotel, they spent a majority of their time in Bunsen and Beaker’s makeshift laboratory, chalking down random equations on the board.
Bunsen gawked over it all for minutes, barely able to keep up with it. “W-What you’re proposing is…well, it’s…Oh, dear. I don’t even know how to begin with the intricacy.” Beaker meeped in agreement with him.
“But it is possible, isn’t it, Dr. Honeydew?” Romana inquired.
“Y-Yes, it is,” Bunsen verified, numbing on his fingers. “At least, I think it is.”
“Well, of course, it is,” Adric voiced. “I’ve done the numbers myself. It’s the perfect solution to how we can finally leave E-Space.”
Beaker meeped in confusion over what Adric just said.
Bunsen corresponded with his assistant’s confusion as he asked, “I’m sorry…did you say ‘E-Space’?”
“Yes,” Adric said. “It’s where your universe exists.”
Bunsen and Beaker’s confusion boosted. “Our…universe?”
“Hey!” Pops suddenly popped his head through the doorway, addressing the group of brainiacs. “Is there an ‘Ad-Rick’ in here?”
“That’s Adric,” the mathematician exasperated.
“Well, whoever ya are, someone’s callin’ fer ya on the phone,” Pops notified.
Adric rapidly blinked, unsure what to make of this circumstance. “For me? That’s impossible. I don’t know anyone here in this world.”
“Well, they sure know you,” Pops said. “Called ya by name and everythin’.”
“C’mon, Adric, don’t be rude,” the Doctor goaded his young companion with a gentle pat on the back. “See who it is.”
Adric did as he suggested, leaving him and Romana to explain to Bunsen and Beaker what he meant when he spoke of universes and E-Space (a topic that was certain to go over the heads of the Muppet scientists). He went to the front desk to answer the phone that had been left off the hook by Pops. Adric hadn’t exactly used a phone before, but he figured it was no different than most communication devices he had seen once or twice in the past, even those in the Doctor’s TARDIS.
“Who is this?” he asked the caller.
“Adric!” It was a woman’s voice, sounding as young as Romana. “Good lad! I’ve missed hearing your voice!”
Adric started to feel uncomfortable talking to this mysterious woman, who seemed to know him. “I don’t know who you are, but it’s not possible for you to know who I am,” he told her.
“E-Space, right?” she said, surprising the young mathematician.
“How do you know about that?!”
“‘Cause it’s me, Adric. I’m the Doctor.”
Adric snickered at her claim. “Don’t be silly. I’m with the Doctor, and the Doctor isn’t a girl.”
“Think about it, Adric. Who else would know that you, me, and Romana are trapped in E-Space and need the help of Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker – in the Happiness Hotel of all places – to gain access to the Quantum Realm in order to escape?”
“Quantum Realm?” Adric pondered on the unique name.
“Your equation, Adric. That’s where it leads.”
Adric was struck cold. “You are the Doctor! But how…?”
“Never mind that now, Adric,” the Doctor urgently interjected. “Right now, I need you to remember that man you saw checking in after we did.”
He harked back on that moment, which only happened a half hour ago from his perspective. “Yes, that man with the long hair,” he recalled. “There was something about him that I didn’t quite like.”
“You always did have such a keen intuition, Adric,” the Doctor praised. “I need you to spy on him for me. Do you see Pops’ ledger on his front desk?”
Adric looked on the desk, seeing many items in front of him – the biggest one being a book with a list of names. One line of names included his, Romana’s, and the Doctor’s written across from their room number. “There’s a book here with our names and room number, Doctor,” he described. “Is this the ‘ledger’ you were talking about?”
“Yes! Romana signed all our names on there,” the Doctor cheered. “Now, do you see the name ‘Loki’ on there?”
Adric checked, and he did see “Loki Laufeyson” written on the line beneath where he, the Doctor, and Romana were signed on. “I see it, Doctor,” Adric confirmed. “He’s in the room across from ours.”
“Brilliant!” the Doctor again cheered.
“Who is this man, Doctor?” Adric asked. “Is he dangerous?”
“Very. Be careful, Adric. Leave the phone off the hook and come back once you’ve found out what Loki intends on doing with the scepter and the Tesseract that he has in his possession.”
Adric still could not get over the fact that he was following on another mission with another Doctor – one that happened to have been a girl. There was still a lot he didn’t know about the Doctor’s race: the Time Lords. But if they were capable of changing their genders, that was something he would one day want to discuss with his Doctor.
In the meantime, he carried out the other Doctor’s orders and went to the room where Loki Laufeyson had been staying. His door was carelessly left unlocked, permitting Adric to walk right in. Loki was nowhere to be seen, but Adric did see the scepter and the Tesseract that the Doctor mentioned, sitting out on the bed.
There was a knock on the door, driving Adric to hide behind a changing screen.
“What is it?” he heard Loki gruffly ask from the bathroom.
Adric saw a bear poke his furry, hat-wearing head past the door. “Sorry to bother you, neighbor,” he told Loki, “but we were wondering if you might have any shaving cream we could borrow for my friend, Kermit.”
Loki walked out of the bathroom with a revolted look (and not because of the conditions of the bathroom itself). “He’s a frog,” Loki told the bear. “Why in the world would he require shaving cream?”
“Well, uh, he’s gonna be on an important date with Lady Holiday at the Dubonnet Club tonight,” the bear explained, “and he really wants to make a good impression on her. Ya know…Hand him his cuff links / and straighten his tie / just drench him in rich cologne / and don’t ask me why / pluck him a boutonniere / movin’ up and walkin’ on air…”
“I get the picture,” Loki interrupted before the bear flew into the whole song. He then began to take interest in what he just told him. “Did I hear you say Lady Holiday will be there at the…what was it called again?”
“The Dubonnet Club,” the bear restated.
Loki devilishly grinned as he picked up the scepter from off his rickety bed, gazing on it with the same sinister demeanor. “Well, then…I suppose you wouldn’t mind if I join you as your plus one,” he requested.
“Uh…gee, mister, I’m not too sure,” the bear fretted. “Ya see, Kermit seems…”
“You will take me with you,” Loki now demanded, tapping at the bear’s furry chest with the tip of his scepter.
Adric noticed how the bear’s eyes glowed in a bluish hue. “We will…take you with us,” the bear complied in a mesmerized tone. “I’m sure Kermit wouldn’t mind…not one bit.”
Satisfied, Loki gathered his coat and the Tesseract, making the latter disappear in his grasp, along with the scepter. He walked out of his room with the bear, closing the door behind them.
Adric wasn’t sure what type of man this “Loki Laufeyson” was, but he was fairly certain he wasn’t a man at all. He waited long enough for Loki to join the bear in the adjacent room before rushing back to the lobby and relaying the entire scene he witnessed over to the other Doctor.
“Loki plans to use the scepter in enthralling Lady Holiday into handing all her riches over to him,” the Doctor deduced after ending her phone call with Adric. “What a textbook criminal thing to do. I’d expect more from the God of Mischief.”
“We can’t let him get away with that,” Fozzie said. “And we especially can’t let him get away with brainwashin’ me into lettin’ him come with us…er, I mean, with the past version of us!” He felt a headache coming on. “Boy, all this time-travel really messes with the senses.”
“Physical or verbal?” Gonzo inquired.
“Both!” Fozzie replied.
“Fozzie’s right,” the Doctor said. “We have to go to that club and stop Loki from not only committing his nefarious scheme but also from abusing his control of the Mind Stone and take it from him.”
“We got your back, Doc,” Graham assured.
“Not this time, Graham,” the Doctor negated. “You, Ryan, and Yaz stay here in the TARDIS.” She saw Yaz on the verge of insisting and quickly added, “Loki is too dangerous. He’s not like Tim Shaw or a Dalek. He’s a god…and I’ve dealt with their lot plenty of times before.”
“Ditto,” Tony remarked. “That’s why I’m definitely coming with you.”
The Doctor nodded in approval. “I’m gonna need an Avenger at my side.”
“What about a Muppet?” Robin asked.
The Doctor knelt down to his level to tell him, “Sorry, Robin. You have to say here with your uncle and everyone else.”
“But why?” Robin disputed. “I wasn’t afraid of Thanos, and I’m not afraid of Loki! And neither is Uncle Kermit!”
“Uh, speak for yourself, nephew,” Kermit gulped.
“I know, Robin,” the Doctor acknowledged. “You’ve been the bravest one of us this whole journey. And your uncle, Fozzie, and Gonzo obviously can’t come and risk runnin’ into their past selves.”
“Yeah, let’s go with that,” Kermit was quick to agree.
“If we’re gonna crash a party, we’re gonna do it the right way,” Tony declared.
“I hear ya, Mr. Stark,” the Doctor said. “Let’s suit up.”
Stark and the Doctor dressed for the event, utilizing some spare tuxedos that the Doctor kept in the TARDIS wardrobe room. Tony was a little surprised to see the Doctor had chosen a tuxedo of her own rather than an evening gown. “No, no, I don’t do gowns,” she told him. “I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.”
In all honesty, her tuxedo of choice wasn’t all too different from her usual garb.
They hailed a cab once they were out of the TARDIS. Unfortunately, their driver was none other than Beauregard, so they held on for dear life during the entire ride to the Dubonnet Club. There, they spotted Loki arriving in an overcrowded Happiness Hotel double-decker bus with Kermit’s 1981 counterpart and his date, Lady Holiday. The Electric Mayhem wildly played “Night Life” on the open-top deck.
“Wait, that’s not Lady Holiday!” the Doctor observed. “That’s Miss Piggy!”
Tony shrugged. “Both were pretty big divas. Hard to tell the difference.”
Neither of them paid much mind to the random occurrence, which was literally all in the past to time-travelers such as them. “C’mon,” the Doctor beckoned Tony. “Let’s get in there and catch Loki red-handed.”
“What color are his hands now?” their taxi driver inquisitively asked.
Ignoring that old running gag, Tony and the Doctor exited from the taxicab and approached the nightclub. Unbeknownst to them, however, a certain little frog had stowed in the taxi and snuck into the club unnoticed…being rather small, it was a piece of cake for him.
Chapter 9: Mind
There was nothing better than a lovely, quiet evening stroll down a London street corner, particularly for a Muppet couple like Wayne and Wanda. The air was clear enough for them to see the stars twinkling in the sky. Such a tranquil setting beckoned for a song that the pair sung together…
When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls
And the stars begin to twinkle in the—
Before Wayne and Wanda could get past the first verse of their rendition of the Nino Tempo/April Stevens tune, they were suddenly interrupted by a strong gust of wind that tried to blow the Muppet couple away. At the same time, a large wormhole portal opened just a few feet from them, and out from it emerged a massive purple man whose body was badly burnt along one side. His mere presence terrorized Wayne and Wanda, urging the Muppet couple into running as far away from the purple man as possible.
The couple’s screams of terror agonized Thanos’s senses, disrupted from his prolonged exposure to the Time Vortex. There was no telling how long he spent in the dimensional plane. It battered every part of his body, right down to his molecules. Another minute and he certainly would’ve died. Thankfully, he still had the Space Stone to help escape his plight.
Kneeling on the street corner, it took Thanos a long time to recover.
“You look like you’re in dire need of assistance, my friend,” someone told him.
Thanos barely caught onto the voice addressing him in such a calm manner. He knew it was Earth that he emerged on, recognizing the atmosphere. Any of its inhabitants would’ve fled from him, just as that annoying couple did.
But not this stranger. He spoke to him as if he were an old associate.
The Mad Titan struggled to look up at the stranger and, through his hazy vision, he noticed that he was dressed in a hooded robe that looked as purple as his own skin. He couldn’t make out any discernable features past the hood, only a pair of glowing white eyes that stared back at him.
“You…do not…fear me?” Thanos struggled to ask.
“Why would I fear my equal?” the stranger asked. “We’re after the same goal, Thanos…except I am after much greater prize. Whereas you wish to control the order of the universe, I wish to control the order of the multiverse.”
“Multi…verse?” Thanos huffed. “You speak nonsense. Who are you? And how do you know who I am?”
“Your reputation howls through these very stars and beyond. That’s why I’ve chosen you to be one of my acolytes in the war to come. But, first, you must obtain the other Infinity Stones.”
“Even if I bought any of what you say, stranger, the other Stones are far out of my reach…no thanks to the Avengers and that woman in the strange blue box.”
“You mean that blue box?”
Thanos saw the hooded figure point towards the other side of the street where there stood the very object that became the bane of his existence during his time in the vortex. An inferno exploded within the Mad Titan as he laid eyes on it, gaining the strength and determination to stand on his two feet again.
Noticing his full recovery, the hooded stranger took satisfaction in it. “Yes! You feel it, too, don’t you? There is another just like the Doctor, somewhere out there in the multiverse, disrupting my plan!”
“The Doctor?” Thanos focused on the name uttered from the stranger’s lips (if he had any).
“It’s what she calls herself…or the name that others have christened for her.”
Having a name to associate with his latest complication made no difference to Thanos and how he intended on overcoming it. More than anything, he was astonished to realize that the Space Stone brought him to the exact time and place where this “Doctor” was. Whether it was serendipity or the connection of the Stones, he couldn’t decide.
“It wasn’t entirely the Stone, my friend,” the stranger said, seeming to have read Thanos’s thoughts.
“Who are you?” he asked again. “Why are you helping me when I don’t even know who you are?”
All that the stranger told him was, “If you succeed in your plan, then we will have much to discuss thereafter.” Upon making this promise, the stranger’s hooded form dissipated, fading into the wind like a purple haze.
Thanos still wasn’t entirely certain what that interaction was all about.
One thing he was certain about was getting into that blue box across the street and reobtaining the Infinity Stones that the Doctor stole from him.
“I may be stupid, but I ain’t that stupid! You really expect me to believe you three old geezers are on this list?!”
Sweetums had recently been hired as bouncer for the Dubonnet Club and, on his third night on the job, he had to deal with a trio of practical jokers. Three old men – one an actual man, the other two Muppets – who claimed that their names (Lee, Statler, and Waldorf) were on the list that he had in hand.
“Oh, c’mon, we’ve gotta be on the list,” the one named “Lee” stated. “Do you know how long we’ve been comin’ to this joint? The owner happens to be a good friend of mine!”
“Ha!” Sweetums scoffed. “That’s what they all say.”
“I bet ya can’t even read from that blasted list!” the one called “Statler” criticized.
“Shows what you know,” Sweetums retorted. “I happen to have perfect reading skills! Had ‘em ever since first grade!”
Before Mr. Lee could’ve made another plea to the big furry monster-bouncer, two individuals cut in front of him and his associates: one was a young woman with short blond hair, the other was a man with a beatnik-looking goatee. The young woman flashed a paper to Sweetums and told him, “We’re V.I.P.”
Sweetums looked on the paper and acknowledged the credentials. “That’s what it says, alright. Go right on in!”
Mr. Lee caught a fleeting glimpse of that paper the woman showed Sweetums and noticed there was no printing on it. “Hey, wait a sec!” he bellowed as the woman and her friend with the goatee walked into the club. “What happened to your ‘perfect reading skills’? Didn’t you see that paper was blank?!”
“Duh…you might wanna get your eyes checked out, buddy,” Sweetums advised.
Mr. Lee couldn’t believe the night he was having. It didn’t get any better when Waldorf belittled him, “That’s the last time we bring you into a cameo!”
“Gladly,” Mr. Lee rebuked. “Muppet Babies was better than this gig.”
Robin remembered the stories his uncle, Fozzie, Gonzo, and Miss Piggy often shared with him about their time in 1981 London – how Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo were fresh new reporters for The Daily Chronicle on their first scoop in interviewing Lady Holiday, who Miss Piggy pretended to be. It was the first time his uncle and Piggy ever met – and nearly the last time, after Piggy was arrested for “stealing” the real Lady Holiday’s jewelry, a crime pinned on her by Lady Holiday’s crooked brother, Nicky.
“The Great Muppet Caper” was what they called it, and Robin was there to witness it all firsthand.
The Dubonnet Club was a lot bigger than his uncle described. It made sneaking past Sweetums and the front entrance that much easier. He knew the Doctor wouldn’t have approved of him leaving the TARDIS, in spite of her telling him not to, but he had to at least try and warn the 1981 counterparts of his uncle and their friends about Loki.
Weaving in and out between so many fancy-dressed people in sparkling gowns and pressed tuxedos, he finally spotted the Muppets he was looking for. They were sitting together at one of the tables closest to the dance floor. Thankfully, Loki was nowhere to be seen near them. Now’s my chance, the little frog thought determinedly.
He quickly hopped over to their table, hearing his uncle gripe about the price of the club’s roast beef being the same as an Oldsmobile. “Uncle Kermit!” he called in a huff. “Boy, am I glad to find you guys!”
His uncle’s 1981 counterpart looked on him inquisitively. “I’m sorry, but…do I know you, little fella?”
“I-It’s me, Uncle Kermit – your nephew, Robin!”
“You have family here in London?” Piggy asked Kermit.
Kermit hesitated on his response. “Erm, not that I knew of.”
It soon dawned on Robin why his uncle and his friends didn’t recognize him. “Of course! It’s 1981! We hadn’t met until a lot later in time!”
“Excuse me, young man,” Piggy addressed Robin. “But aren’t you a little young to be in a nightclub without adult supervision?”
“That’s not what’s important right now,” Robin retorted. “You guys gotta get out of here! That man you came into the club with – Loki – he’s not who you think he is! He’s a…”
“I’m a what?”
Robin froze when he heard Loki’s voice speak right beside him. There the God of Mischief stood, having returned from wherever in the club he went (possibly to see if the real Lady Holiday had arrived). He looked down on Robin from his imposing height with that devilish grin of his. It made the panicked Robin scurry away, not saying another word.
“Somebody really should find that kid’s parents,” the concerned Fozzie suggested.
“Yes, someone should,” Loki coldly concurred, his gaze locked on the fleeing little frog and his suspicion aroused from how he knew who he was.
It was a lot busier in the Dubonnet Club than the Doctor or Tony anticipated. With so many fancy-dressed people and the fact that Loki wouldn’t have just rolled into the club wearing his Asgardian garb, it was going to be a challenge to scout him out.
“Your call, Doc,” Stark said, following her lead.
“Right,” the Doctor nodded. “We’ll split up and search. When one of us finds him, don’t hesitate to make a move. He’s gonna be a tricky one.”
Stark approved of the plan, putting on his special-made sunglasses. They housed an A.I. system, allowing its user to communicate and use the A.I. for a multitude of tasks. This pair specifically housed F.R.I.D.A.Y., Stark’s Irish-accented A.I. program. Though F.R.I.D.A.Y. was only in the high-tech glasses, her connection allowed for Stark to commune with someone as he scouted for Loki.
“What’s the floor plan like on this place, F.R.I.D.A.Y.?”
“One entrance/exit in the front, one in the back, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a V.I.P. lounge, one ballroom, and a storage closet.”
“Mmm-hmm. And none of them would happen to have a god hiding in one?”
“Unfortunately, boss, you didn’t program me for ‘god detection’.”
“Remind me to give you an upgrade when we get back.”
“However, I do detect another person who might be of interest for you.”
Stark watched as the A.I. interface drew his attention to one of two individuals that walked into the Dubonnet Club. One of them was the glossy Lady Holiday herself. The man who accompanied her was whom F.R.I.D.A.Y. highlighted on the interface.
“Is that who I think it is?” Stark asked F.R.I.D.A.Y.
“It certainly is, boss…Nicholas Holiday.”
A burst of new resolve sparked in Tony as he gazed on Holiday’s smug face through the user interface, seizing in a rare opportunity. “Track his movements, F.R.I.D.A.Y.”
“I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of temporal paradoxes, boss.”
“Trust me, F.R.I.D.A.Y. History will thank me for what I have in mind.”
The Doctor couldn’t afford to forget why she was at the Dubonnet Club, but she also couldn’t help to take in such a festive atmosphere. It played with all her senses. The smell of the exquisite cuisines, the sound of the swinging band, and the sight of the high-class architecture.
And, of course, there were the drinks being served.
She snatched one off a tray as it was carried by one of the waiters. She took a big sip and immediately spat it back into the glass, once she realized it was champagne. “Ugh! Don’t like champagne,” she griped to no one in particular. “Not even when it’s not the right year!”
Suddenly, she heard a familiar voice shout out, “You know, if you put enough sugar in this stuff, it tastes just like ginger ale.”
It was a brilliant idea that the Doctor was eager to try out, until she recognized the voice as that of Fozzie Bear – or his 1981 counterpart. The Doctor spotted him sitting at one of the tables closest to the dance floor, sipping on his sugar-filled glass of champagne/ginger ale and watching Kermit and Piggy share in a romantic waltz to the band’s serenading tune of “The First Time It Happens.”
Only Loki sat with the bear, eyeing Lady Holiday, who sat a few booths near theirs with her scheming brother, Nicky. It seems like there’s a lot of suspicious activity floating around this club tonight, the Doctor mentally reflected.
“It’s impolite to spy on others.”
The Doctor jolted when she heard the voice of Loki speak out from behind her, twirling to see the God of Mischief standing there behind her. She gazed back to the “Loki” sitting with Fozzie, realizing that it was just a conjured illusion, either to get close enough to Lady Holiday or corner the snooping Doctor.
“Clever,” the Doctor half-heartedly applauded.
“Thank you,” Loki returned in the same demeanor. “Now then…tell me why you’re spying on me.”
“I’d rather not,” the Doctor refused.
Loki cackled. “Ohh, I was hoping you’d say that.” He materialized his scepter in his hand and tapped its razor-blade tip to the Doctor’s chest. The hazel in her eyes turned to a fluorescent blue color, signifying a successful enthrallment. “Let’s try this again, shall we? Why are you spying on me?”
The Doctor put up a struggle to respond, much to the confusion of Loki, who had never witnessed such an effect in his usage of the Mind Stone. The God of Mischief’s bewilderment was amplified as he saw that fluorescent blue color rescind from the Doctor’s eyes, returning to their usual hazel color.
Followed by a quick gasp, the Doctor regained her senses, smirking at the god in front of her. “Nice try,” she told him. “But you’re gonna need two of those scepters, if you plan on mind-controlling me.”
Loki couldn’t quite figure what she meant by that. “What are you? Why have you come for me?”
“That’s just it – I’m not here for you,” the Doctor said. “I’m here for the Mind and Space Stones you have.”
“Ah, yes,” Loki smiled, figuring it all out. “You’ve come to stop me from abusing them, is that it?”
“That and to stop Thanos from using them.”
Loki was crestfallen when she uttered that name. “That’s a futile effort.”
“Maybe. But we’re not lettin’ you leave this club with them.”
“I’m sorry. Did you say ‘we’? You and who else?”
It was at that moment Loki heard a mechanical whirring noise near his left ear. He didn’t have to turn very far to see the familiar repulsor gauntlet aimed straight for his head. Beyond it, he could see Tony Stark, not entirely clad in his armor – just his left hand and forearm.
“Her and me,” Tony said in response to Loki’s inquiry.
“Pleasure to see you again, Tony,” Loki said, frozen in place.
“It’s ‘Mr. Stark’ to you, Prancer. Now hand over the Stones, so we won’t ruin the frog and the pig’s nice lil’ dance number.”
“Speaking of frogs, I believe there’s one other the both of you should be concerned about.”
Stark and the Doctor noticed Loki nodding in one direction near their location. Initially, they were both hesitant to look, thinking it to be a ruse. But they gave in and turned their heads to see yet another one of Loki’s allusions – or possibly the real Loki – holding Robin at bay with his scepter.
“I-I’m sorry, Doctor,” the little frog whimpered.
Although the Doctor was displeased to see him there, she was even more so to see Loki holding him hostage. Turning back to the Loki that she and Stark had cornered, she assertively demanded, “Let him go.”
“First, let me go…with the Stones,” Loki countered.
“Not gonna happen,” Tony denied.
“Then I guess I’ll be enjoying frog legs while I’m still here,” Loki sneered.
Their dispute came to an abrupt conclusion once the entrance to the Dubonnet Club exploded inward, shooting debris and the body of Sweetums into the establishment. All activity, both festive and hostile, ceased as soon as Thanos entered with his Infinity Gauntlet – now fused with the Space, Time, Power, Soul, and Reality Stones – and his hostages: Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham.
Chapter 10: Thanos
“A-Are you guys seeing what I’m seeing?”
Kermit’s 1981 counterpart, shining in his pressed tuxedo, huddled behind an overturned table with the 1981 counterparts of Gonzo and Fozzie, along with “Lady Holiday.” What was supposed to have been an enchanting evening took a bizarre turn with the explosive arrival of a giant, bald purple man with one-half of his body badly burnt and a shimmering golden gauntlet worn on his left hand.
But he wasn’t the strangest part about the unsettling spectacle they were witnessing. Cowering beneath him were three individuals – another frog, another bear, and another weirdo – who looked exactly like them.
“Gee, who figured we’d have another pair of twin brothers we never knew about,” 1981 Fozzie observed.
Though Kermit was grudgingly compelled to remind him, “We don’t, Fozzie.”
“Oh, wow, this is gonna make a big scoop for the Chronicle!” 1981 Gonzo proceeded to snap photos with his flashbulb camera. Each flash shot he took only irked the giant purple man, as it flashed in his field of vision. Provoked, he aimed his gauntlet towards the weirdo and his camera, using one of the gems embedded in the gauntlet to melt the camera right in the weirdo’s hands. “I’m gonna need a big scoop for my camera,” he lamented.
The Doctor was mortified to see Thanos in the Dubonnet Club, but no more so than Loki was. His past dealings with the Mad Titan, particularly the one that led to an invasion over New York City in 2012, were about to catch up with him – and he didn’t plan on staying any longer. The Doctor could hear the God of Mischief making a hasty exit, leaving behind the scepter and the Tesseract. In his haste, his illusions vanished, including the one holding Robin.
Freed from captivity, the small frog joined at the Doctor’s side. “I’m really sorry, Doctor,” he told her. “I should’ve stayed behind in the TARDIS like you said.”
The Doctor gave the little frog a comforting pat on the back. “Right now, I’m glad you didn’t, Robin, or you’d be taken hostage with your uncle and the others.”
“How’re we gonna help them?” Robin inquired.
She attempted to formulate a plan in her head, just as she heard Tony whisper to her, “Doc, you get the stones and our pals out while I take care of the big purple nightmare.”
The Doctor didn’t like this plan of his. “The last time you challenged Thanos, he nearly destroyed you!”
“I don’t have to beat him. I just have to distract him.”
He had already reactivated his suit and rocketed straight for Thanos before the Doctor could make another protest. The Iron Man fired his repulsors at Thanos’s head, forcing the Mad Titan to conjure a force field with his gauntlet to repel the blasts. He returned fire with a concentrated beam that Tony dodged in the nick of time, although it struck the massive chandelier hanging above the dance floor, sending it crashing down. Thankfully, the people below got out of its way just in time.
Stark’s distraction seemed to have worked to perfection. Thanos’s attention was solely on the flying man in the nanotech-powered suit of armor and not on the group he held hostage. “Now’s our chance to save Uncle Kermit and everybody else, Doctor,” Robin directed.
The Doctor seized the chance, taking the scepter and the Tesseract and running along with Robin towards the hostages. She didn’t say a word as she passed them, merely nodding her head in the direction of the flaming crater that used to be the front entrance/exit of the Dubonnet Club. Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham caught on immediately, following Robin and the Doctor out.
Their retreat wasn’t as clean as they hoped. While fending off Stark, Thanos detected the Doctor escaping with two of the stones and his hostages. “Not this time,” he grumbled, finishing off Stark with a purple shockwave that he created by clenching his gauntleted fist and channeling the Power Stone. Tony was knocked off-course immediately, tumbling backwards through the air until he smacked against the wall. The collision rendered him unconscious, his limp body peeling off the wall and falling onto table with all of its contents hurled off upon impact.
With the Iron Man no longer a threat, Thanos generated a portal through his acquired Space Stone, stepping through it to emerge outside the Dubonnet Club where he cornered the Doctor and her friends. He aimed his gauntlet straight for her head and demanded, “Give me the stones!”
The Doctor stood firm against him. “No!” she refused, ever so boldly.
“I won’t ask twice.” To make his point clear, Thanos redirected his aim from the Doctor’s head to those of her friends.
In spite of his fears, Graham made it clear to the Doctor, “Don’t give ‘im those stones, Doc. Don’t matter what he does to us.”
“Are you nuts?!” Fozzie argued. “It matters to me!”
“Don’t do it, Doctor!” Robin cried. “He’ll destroy everyone we care about!”
But the little frog did not have to remind her of that. She knew the level of destruction Thanos would bring with all six Infinity Stones. She also couldn’t allow him to destroy her friends with the five currently in his possession. This wasn’t a crossroads she hadn’t been to before: the universe or her fam.
And then she remembered something in their conversation with Doctor Strange back on Titan…
I know you’ve recently used that stone to look into several possibilities of winning the fight with Thanos – fourteen million six hundred and five outcomes, correct? How many of those outcomes did we win?
Two…but the other outcome is too much of a risk to the multiverse.
It’s the Doctor, isn’t it? Her presence here and now has changed everything.
Trust me when I say that I know the risk, and I will do whatever’s necessary in preserving the multiverse when I’m finished.
Adamant as he was to keep the Time Stone out of her hands or anyone else’s, Strange would not have given it up so willingly if he hadn’t already seen how they would win against Thanos.
Fourteen million six hundred and five outcomes…only two in which they win.
The Doctor couldn’t guess what that other outcome might’ve been, but she knew this one had to involve the next move she would make there and then.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.
Tony hated this recurring theme with getting knocked out by Thanos – no more than he hated the constant tapping that resonated over his helmet. The HUD display was still up when he opened his eyes to see the 1981 counterparts of Kermit, Gonzo, and Fozzie standing over him. “Excuse me…uh, sir?” the tuxedo-wearing frog addressed him. “Are you still alive…er…switched on?”
A sudden explosion of bright white light flashed right in the face of the recovering Iron Man, emitted from 1981 Gonzo’s camera. Tony’s nanotech-powered helmet retracted as he blinked a few times. “Thought I’d be used to that by now, after so many paparazzi encounters,” he griped while sitting upright.
“So you are human,” 1981 Kermit said, looking on Stark’s face. “That’s a relief. I don’t think we could handle another robot or alien here in the club.”
“Yeah,” 1981 Gonzo concurred. “Who was that big purple guy with the golden glove anyway?”
“And who were those three guys who look just like us?” 1981 Fozzie followed.
“Don’t worry, fellas,” Tony remarked. “Those are problems you won’t have to worry about for another forty years.” He got to his feet and headed on his way out of the Dubonnet Club. Along the way, he pointed at a dazed Nicky Holiday and shouted to everyone in the club, “Check this man’s pockets. You’ll find Lady Holiday’s jewels in one of ‘em.” And Lady Holiday did just that, not too shocked when she caught her brother red-handed (not just figuratively but literally from ketchup stains).
Tony ran out through the demolished club entrance to find the Doctor and the rest of their friends standing out in the middle of the street. He didn’t see Thanos anywhere in sight. “Where did he go?” he asked the group, noticing how disgruntled a few of them were, specially towards the Doctor.
“He’s gone,” Yaz replied in anger. “And the Doctor gave him the last Stone he needed.”
“What?!” Tony’s gaze fixated on the Doctor, now feeling the same confusion and frustration that the others felt. “Why would you do that?”
“Because it was the only way,” the Doctor said. “Don’t you see? This was one of the outcomes Doctor Strange told us about. One of the ways in which we can beat Thanos. This is where it starts – the endgame.”
“You’re risking all life as we know it on a hunch?!” Kermit retorted. “He’s somewhere out there right now, ready to wipe us all out! How’re we gonna survive to beat him after that?!”
The Doctor shook her head assuredly. “He only wants to carry out his plan in the present, Kermit. As long as we’re here in the past, we’re safe.”
“You sure ‘bout that, Doc?” Graham asked, his voice shaky and his hand clutched against his chest. “‘Cause I’m not feelin’ too good right now.” He suddenly collapsed into the arms of an alarmed and baffled Ryan.
Ryan gently settled Graham down on the ground. He removed his jacket and bundled it to support Graham’s head. “Grandad,” he said. “What’s wrong? What’s the matter?” His initial thoughts were on his cancer, which had been in remission for quite some time.
Graham tried to speak to his grandson, but all that came out were soft gasps.
And then, to the horror of Ryan and everyone else, Graham’s frail body disintegrated into dust. Ryan was overwhelmed with bewilderment, looking on the spot where Graham’s body lied for a long moment until he directed his attention to the only person who could’ve explained what just happened. “Doctor,” he gasped. “W-Where did he go? Where’s my granddad?”
The Doctor stood frozen, her mouth agape in total shock.
“Doctor…” She heard Yaz call out to her in the same shaky voice Graham had. Turning in her direction, she saw Yaz looking down at her hands, which were slowly starting to disintegrate.
“No…no…” the Doctor muttered, her lips quivering.
Yaz stared at her with a frightened gaze that soon evaporated into total absence.
It wasn’t very long before Ryan himself faded into oblivion.
“What’s happening to everybody?!” a terrified Fozzie shouted.
“I don’t know…but I think the same thing’s happening to me,” Scooter directed all attention on him as his arms and hands crumbled until he was nothing more than a head, torso, and legs. “Oh, man! This feels so weir—” His statement was cut short once his head dusted along with the rest of his form.
“Uncle Kermit…where are we going?”
Kermit didn’t quite comprehend the context of his nephew’s question until he looked his way and saw his tiny figure disintegrating just as Graham, Yaz, Ryan, and Scooter all had. He didn’t want to panic – panicking would only scare him. Sometimes he forgot how brave his nephew was. It certainly showed at this very moment.
“I…I don’t know, Robin,” he answered.
“Are you coming with us?”
Kermit looked at himself. His body remained intact. “I…I don’t think so.”
Robin’s head dropped in disappointment. “B-But we will be together again one day, right? We’ve always been togeth—”
The tiny frog was robbed of his final words as he disappeared before the very eyes of his grieving uncle and his surviving friends. Kermit’s eyes, usually filled with composure, were flooded with rage not often seen in the frog.
And the Doctor was the unfortunate recipient of that uncharacteristic rage.
Chapter 11: Fugitive of the TVA
“Time to get yourself up, hon.”
Beneath the fluff of fuzzy eyelids opened the beady eyes of Bobo the Bear, waking to the cheery voice of the TVA’s A.I. mascot, Miss Minutes. As judge of the Time Variance Authority, Bobo was allowed frequent naps, since time flowed differently in the TVA, making hibernation difficult.
The orange tiny, shimmering form of Miss Minutes floated over Bobo as he sat up in his bed. “Anything I can get for ya, boss?” she asked.
“Anything I can get for ya, boss?” Another A.I. construct by the name of “Waldo” materialized right next to Miss Minutes. This one was uncanny in appearance compared to her. He was more a personal assistant for Bobo, gifted to him by “The Conqueror” for his good work and dedication to the TVA.
This, of course, only brought out Miss Minutes’ competitive nature whenever Waldo was around. “Hey, I asked him first!” she griped to Waldo.
“Well, I was here first!” Waldo retorted.
“No, you weren’t!” Miss Minutes fired back.
“Yes, I was! You just didn’t see me!”
Before the two constructs exploded further into their heated debate, Bobo told them, “You two are the best friends a bear could ask for. If it’s not too much trouble, Waldo can handle my bath and suit. And, Minutes, you can fetch me my breakfast. Oh, and put ‘Track 47’ on the speakers, will ya?”
“You got it!” Minutes acknowledged before twirling out of Bobo’s sight.
Immediately, Bobo’s favorite tune played on the surround-sound speakers from his bedchamber to his office:
Think about it, there must be a higher love.
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above.
Without it, life is wasted time.
Look inside your heart, and I’ll look inside mine.
Things look so bad everywhere.
In this whole world, what is fair?
We walk the line and try to see.
Falling behind in what could be.
Bring me a higher love!
Bring me a higher love, oh!
Bring me a higher love!
Where’s that higher love I keep thinking of?
Bobo knew the lyrics by heart, and Waldo and Miss Minutes were pre-programmed to know them regardless. Waldo sang along with Bobo in the shower and afterwards as he dried off and got dressed up in his suit and tie. Miss Minutes sang while preparing Bobo’s favorite breakfast: honey pancakes with honey-flavored syrup.
Of course, with time being nonlinear in the TVA, it could’ve been lunch or dinner and Bobo would still eat honey pancakes with honey-flavored syrup.
The hour got better with the arrival of Bobo’s close friend and loyal TVA agent, Mobius M. Mobius. He performed a little shuffle dance along to the music on his way into Bobo’s office. “I gotta say, my favorite part about walking in here every time is hearing Steve Winwood on your stereo,” he told the bear judge.
“Steve Winwood?” Bobo said, smacking on his pancakes. “Who’s that?”
Mobius looked right at him, unsure if he was joking or not. “Steve Winwood. The guy who sings your favorite song in the multiverse?”
“You mean that’s not Huey Lewis?” Bobo asked in a moment of realization.
Moving on from the awkward exchange, Mobius refocused on his entire reason for visiting Bobo. “So, uh…the Variant’s representative is here.”
“Already?!” Bobo exclaimed, nearly choking on his pancakes. “Aw! But I just started eating!”
“I know, buddy,” Mobius sympathized. “And I debated whether I should’ve come here to tell you or wait ‘til you were finished, but I didn’t want to keep her waiting any longer than she already has.”
Bobo groaned, looking on his half-eaten plate of honey pancakes. “Oh, alright. Waldo, do me a favor and put the rest of these in the disposal, would ya?” Waldo seemed more than happy to carry out the order, considering it was Miss Minutes who made the pancakes.
After cleaning off the bits of pancake stuck around his furry mouth, Bobo followed Mobius out of the office and to the nearest waiting room. Standing there at the time they arrived was a tall black, rectangular solid. Its tip nearly touched the ceiling. Its door was opened to reveal a much bigger space inside.
“You know, before today, I always thought this place was a myth.”
Bobo and Mobius turned their heads when they heard a woman speak near them, not having noticed her until that very second. She was a rather beautiful individual, presumably in her late forties with long blond hair and aquamarine eyes. She was donned in a black hoodie, purple shirt, skintight blue jeans, and beige boots.
“You’re the representative for the Variant on trial?” Bobo asked her.
“I sure am,” the woman confirmed, walking up to Bobo and shaking his paw. “Name’s Neas. Some call me the ‘Gladiator of Gallifrey,’ others just call me ‘Time Lord.’ But, in this regeneration of me, you can call me ‘Kara.’” After shaking Bobo’s paw, she detected some sticky residue on her hands.
“Sorry about that,” Bobo told her. “I didn’t finish breakfast.”
“No prob,” Kara said, taking a cloth from out of her hoodie to wipe her hand with.
Wasting no time, Bobo and Mobius walked her into the TVA courtroom. There, they spotted two characters who sat waiting in one of the pews. To Kara, they looked a lot like the Muppets known as Gonzo and Rizzo, except dressed in Victorian garb. But, reading the case profile before she arrived, she knew these two individuals were their variants – Gonzo’s specifically being a version of famous author, Charles Dickens.
The case profile also contained details of the variant on trial: the Doctor.
Kara was amused to discover this to be a female incarnation of her old mentor and friend. She was hunted down by the TVA sometime after returning from the year 1981 of Earth-M with Kermit the Frog, Gonzo, Fozzie, and Tony Stark. The file did not specify what they were doing in 1981, other than the fact that it created a nexus event that splintered from Earth-M’s timeline. The Doctor was eventually detained about a year later – a year she spent being a fugitive of the TVA.
She was described as being “unhinged” during her imprisonment, scribbling on the walls of her cell. The file included photographs of the scribbles, most of which were equations and scenarios that all connected to one person: Thanos. There were also details about Infinity Stones and the Doctor’s obsession with them. She was reported having escaped multiple times to break into the TVA archives, until she one day requested her only reliable contact in the multiverse – Neas – to represent her on trial.
Shortly after Kara, Mobius, and Bobo congregated in the courtroom, the Doctor was escorted in by one of the TVA’s Hunters (whose face reminded Kara of that of her previous regeneration) while accompanied by a Minuteman – though she was more “Minutewoman” by her features.
The Doctor herself appeared starkly different than in the photo that the TVA took of her at the time of her arrest. Her hair was darker, as opposed to the sunny blond locks in her profile photo, and she sported equally dark makeup. Her entire demeanor was that of a woman who had experienced great loss and battled deep depression, all while serving time for crimes against the multiverse.
Her trial began once Bobo took his place at the bench.
“Doctor. Variant B2552 is charged with sequence violation 7-20-90. Uh, how do you plead there, Doctor?”
“Guilty!” Dickens blurted out in a fit of rage. “You ruined the story of A Christmas Carol! The whole of our existence!!”
Bobo banged on the gavel, the sound of which jittered the bear himself. “Wow. This thing’s loud.” Once he was over the fright, he addressed Dickens, “Now, uh, hold it right there, Mr. Dickens. I asked the Doctor to plead for herself. You don’t get to plead for her.”
“I’m sorry, Your Honor,” Dickens said. “I’m just so angry because of what she’s done! Our reality is in shambles!”
“Let’s not be too hasty there, Mr. Dickens,” Bobo said. “Our guys planted a nice little reset charge to undo all the damages. Your reality is fine.”
“I know, but still…” Dickens moaned.
Through the TVA holoprojector, they viewed the events of the crime. The Doctor, who Kara saw to be that of the tenth incarnation, was with two Avengers (Wanda Maximoff and Vision) and four Muppets (Miss Piggy, Animal, Beauregard, and Pepe the King Prawn). The Doctor momentarily stepped into his TARDIS while Wanda and Vision played “Ghost of Christmas Past” to Ebenezer Scrooge – Wanda manipulating the old miser’s mind. And then, the Doctor rushed back out, urges his companions to leave but not before instructing Wanda to rush with her mental manipulation of Scrooge, leading to his mental breakdown. The footage ended there.
It was a pretty serious crime. But Kara spotted a major hole in it.
“Your Honor? If I may?” she stepped forward. “There’s one important facet of this case that we’re not considering: the ‘Doctor’ we have on trial here isn’t the one responsible. She wasn’t even there. It was the tall, lanky man in the suit and tie.”
The Doctor smiled with immense satisfaction of Kara pointing out this loophole.
Even Bobo couldn’t argue with that logic. “That does appear to be the situation here,” he noted.
“Don’t be fooled by that technicality, Your Honor,” Dickens objected. “Time Lords like her are one-in-the-same, regardless of how many faces they take on from regeneration. Therefore, by all counts, the Doctor present at the crime is the same one here before us.”
Kara was taken aback by Dickens’ stern and on-point rebuttal.
“Damn, he’s good,” she muttered.
“May I speak on my own behalf?” the Doctor suddenly requested, opening her mouth for the first time since she was brought into the courtroom.
“You may,” Bobo permitted.
After a brief pause, the Doctor stated, “All I was trying to do was save the universe from Thanos. We nearly had all the Stones until…” She briefly choked on her words, having a moment of bereavement before she continued on. “Thanos wiped out my fam…he wiped out two of my friends, one of them only just a child. It happened right in front of his uncle, who could only just watch as his nephew had no idea why he and the adults around him were dying. Now, you tell me…after witnessing a scene like that, wouldn’t you do anything to get back to reality and set things right?”
There wasn’t a single dry eye in the courtroom, following the Doctor’s statements.
Not even Dickens – the Doctor’s accuser – could hold back his tears.
“Yeah, I would,” Bobo whimpered, blowing into a handkerchief. Once he was able to compose himself, he told the Doctor, “I can’t just let ya go though. You still have to face judgment for your—”
Everyone in the courtroom jumped with fright when Miss Minutes randomly appeared out of thin air. Her form was slightly bigger than it was when Bobo saw her earlier in his bedchamber.
“Geez, Minutes!” Bobo grumbled. “How many times do I have to tell ya not to do that?! Ring a bell or somethin’ next time!”
“Sorry, boss,” Minutes innocently remarked. “I just came to deliver a message for ya’ll from the big boss.”
Bobo stood attentive at this news. “T-The C-C-Conqueror?” he stammered. “W-What…What does he want?” Miss Minutes shrunk down to a form small enough to whisper something into Bobo’s fuzzy ear. His mouth gaped open in surprise at what he heard. Soon after the news was delivered, Miss Minutes vanished and Bobo addressed the court. “Well, uh…it seems that all charges against the Doctor have been dismissed. She’s free to go.” He banged his gavel to make it official, scaring himself once again.
“What?!” Dickens screamed in anger and disbelief. “This is outrageous!”
“If you’re unhappy with the decision, Mr. Dickens, you can take it up with the Conqueror himself,” Bobo suggested.
Dickens’s conduct quickly changed at the TVA judge’s suggestion.
“Erm…I’m good,” he said, before pointing in one random direction and turning to Rizzo. “The, uh, exit’s this way, right?”
“I believe it is, Mr. Dickens,” the rat verified, although he didn’t seem entirely sure of it himself, wanting to leave just as fast as his associate.
Kara and an immeasurably grateful Doctor were just about to leave themselves.
“Hold on there one sec,” Bobo told them. “The Conqueror did add one condition to the agreement: he wants Hunter C-88 and Minuteman 20122016 to accompany you back to Earth-M.” He gestured to the two TVA agents who escorted the Doctor in.
The Doctor shrugged. “Sure. No problem.”
While Kara and the Doctor freely departed from the courtroom in the accompaniment of Hunter C-88 and Minuteman 20122016, Mobius approached Bobo at the bench, his curiosity piqued. “Did the Big C really request C-88 and that agent to go with the variant and her representative?”
“He sure did,” Bobo substantiated.
“Any idea as to why?”
“None I can think of.”
“I’ve lost count how many favors you owe me for saving your butt,” Kara expressed to the Doctor as they headed back to the waiting room where Kara’s Type-Z TARDIS itself waited. Hunter C-88 and Minuteman 20122016 followed close behind.
“Keep countin’, ‘cause we’re not done yet,” the Doctor told her. “I’m gonna need the Type-Z in reobtaining the Infinity Stones. There were many I found all over TVA headquarters – being used as paperweights of all things – until they were discarded through an interdimensional furnace when they began to clutter the office space.”
“Those equations I saw in your case file,” Kara indicated. “I thought I’d recognized them. I’d seen Pop write the same ones over parts of my ship that I had the damnedest time cleaning off. They’re multiverse equations.”
“Yeah,” the Doctor confirmed. “I have some theories of where each stone might’ve gone to after it was discarded. But, first, we have to return to Earth-M and gather a team. We can’t do this alone and with only one TARDIS.”
Kara nodded in agreement. She then glanced back at the stoic TVA agents that followed them into her TARDIS. “Are we sure it’s such a good idea having these two tag along with us? They do work for the same agency that kept you prisoner for God knows how long.”
“It’s O.K.,” the Doctor reassured. “I trust these TVA agents more than any other.”
“You know them?”
“The TVA took them in when they got lost traveling with me. They were classified as Variants of a lost realm. The one we’re about to save is the only home they have left.”
“What’re their names? Their real names, I mean.”
“Ciciley Livingston and Agent X.”
Chapter 12: Dog City
Within a dark alley, a faint light blinked in and out of thin air. It was soon followed by the ghostly outline of a blue police box, fading in sequence with the light above it, until it finally solidified there in the alley. Its seven passengers stepped out through the double doors, opening in the opposite direction from what was directed on the instruction posted upon the left side door.
“Well, it sure does look like New York City,” Miss Piggy observed of their surroundings. “It’s just as filthy, that’s for sure.” She was certain she might have stepped on a wad of bubble gum (though it didn’t smell like it).
“It doesn’t feel like it to me,” Wanda said.
“What does it feel like?” the Doctor asked her.
“Like…we’re somewhere else.”
Pepe groaned. “So, we’re still not home? Oh, boy. I’ll be inside the weird box, watchin’ fantasy football, okay.”
“Not so fast, shrimp!” Piggy restrained him.
Suddenly, the Doctor spotted a husband-and-wife couple walking by the alley. They were Muppet canines, each of different breeds. “Uh, excuse me?” he beckoned their attention, and they responded by looking his way. “Ah, yes. So sorry to bother you. But would you mind telling us where—?”
“What are they, Herb?!” the wife screeched in terror.
“I don’t know, Marge!” Herb answered, sounding more terrified than his wife. “But we better get outta here before they come anywhere near us!”
The Doctor and his companions watched in confusion as the mortified couple ran away. “Well, that wasn’t much help,” Piggy said of the brief encounter. They then walked out of the dark alley, getting a better view of the new world they arrived in. The entire city had a 1930s motif and was occupied by dogs of various shapes, sizes, and colors.
The presence of the seven interdimensional travelers quickly attracted the attention of the Dog City residents – including the local authorities. “You there! Stop!” one of the officers demanded before blowing his whistle.
However, there was no sound that came out of it.
“I think his whistle is broken,” Beauregard surmised.
Upon closer observation, Vision realized, “No…he’s blowing a dog whistle.”
“Do we still run?” Wanda inquired.
“Basically…yes!” the Doctor verified, and so they ran.
The Dog City police officers chased them on foot. The pursuit stirred quite a bit of chaos among the blocks that the two parties passed through, either from the otherworldly appearances of the seven travelers or the many fruits and vegetables stands that were accidentally trashed by the pursing officers.
It gave the seven travelers an advantage, as it put some distance between them and the police. When they happened across an abandoned building, one trench-coated canine with a pink bow stuck his head out through the front door and whispered to them, “Quick! In here!” He was the only Dog City resident who didn’t appear to be frightened by their appearances.
With not much of a choice, they followed the trench-coated canine into the abandoned building. “Thanks for your help,” the Doctor told their new ally.
“No prob,” the trench-coated canine acknowledged.
The Doctor and his companions discovered that the dog wasn’t alone in the building. There was a female collie with him. “The coast is all clear, Ace,” she notified. “Those cops were thrown off by the scent.”
“Good work, Colleen,” Ace told her. “This former cheese factory is the perfect hideout. You can still smell the limburger.”
“Is that what that smell is?” Pepe said. “I thought one of us cut one – and I don’t mean the cheese, okay.”
“Why did you help us?” Vision asked Ace and Colleen.
“You guys are clearly friends of Scott Lang,” Ace replied. “Who else would walk these streets with those crazy mugs?”
Wanda beamed with surprise. “Scott’s here?!”
“Who’s Scott?” the Doctor asked.
“The Ant-Man,” Wanda elaborated. “We fought together at the Leipzig-Halle Airport, during the clash over the Accords. Vision was there as well.”
“Yes,” the synthezoid confirmed. “If I recall of the incident, I phased through his body when he was in his giant form.”
“If he’s here, then he’s just as lost as we are,” the Doctor inferred. He then turned his attention to Ace and Colleen and asked, “Where is he?”
“He was kidnapped by Them and his gang,” Colleen disclosed.
“Who and his gang?” Beauregard asked.
“No, not ‘Who’ – Them!” Colleen contradicted.
“That’s what I’m asking you,” Beauregard said.
“Who? Me?” Ace stepped in.
“No, her,” Beauregard pointed to Colleen.
“She’s a Yu, too – by marriage,” Ace told him.
“I’m married to her?” an extremely baffled Beauregard queried.
“No, I’m married to her!” Ace retorted in frustration. “She’s now ‘Colleen Yu’.”
“Why is she calling me?” Beauregard asked.
“CAN WE GET BACK TO THE STORY ALREADY?!?!” Piggy bellowed, visibly infuriated by the sudden routine.
After Piggy’s outburst, Colleen got back to the topic at hand and divulged, “Bugsy Them is the leader of the gang here in Dog City. He got a hold of Scott Lang the moment he laid eyes on him, and now he’s planning on showcasing the poor fella at the Dog House like some sort of sideshow freak.”
“The Dog House?” Piggy questioned.
“Dog City’s most popular restaurant,” Colleen detailed.
Piggy shook her head in disgust. “No originality whatsoever.”
“Regardless, we need to get into this ‘Dog House’ and free Mr. Lang from his captors,” the Doctor established.
“Well, you’re not getting in with those mugs,” Colleen indicated. “You’re gonna need disguises.”
“Good thing there are plenty in this abandoned factory to go around,” Ace said.
He approached one of the crates, prying it open to reveal it was full of dog costumes, a few of which were of appropriate human size. Seeing them, however, confused Wanda. “I thought you said this used to be a cheese factory,” she mentioned to Ace and Colleen.
“It also used to be a costume factory,” Ace said.
“That made dog costumes for dogs?” Pepe noted.
Ace and Colleen nodded affirmatively. “Of course!”
“This place is really weird,” Piggy muttered.
Ace’s plan for getting into the Dog House was a terrible one. Regardless, the costumes that Piggy, Pepe, Beauregard, Vision, Wanda, and the Doctor all wore managed to fool the majority of the Dog City residents that passed them. The only one not in costume was Animal, who was pretty used to acting like a dog already. Beauregard kept control of his chain leash.
The disguises even managed to fool the guard dog at the Dog House entrance, though he did bother to ask, “Hey, why youse guys not wearin’ any clothes? It ain’t that kinda party!” Nevertheless, he allowed them inside.
The Dog House was packed with city residents interested in seeing Bugsy Them’s “freak of nature.” The performance stage had a large red curtain hanging just for the evening’s event. Bugsy himself appeared on it to commence with the entertainment. “Good evenin’, ladies and gents! Youse all been gathered here tonight for some senseless entertainment. Well, it don’t get any more senseless than this. I present to youse the one and only Hairless Freak of Dog City!”
The curtain parted to reveal the sideshow attraction: the “Ant-Man,” Scott Lang.
He stood in a cage made specifically for him, accommodating his height and width, although there was not much elbow room. He looked miserable and humiliated – and rightfully so – as the audience of dog-people gaped in awe and disgust of his human appearance. He was thankful Bugsy still allowed him to wear his Ant-Man suit.
“Poor Scott,” Wanda pitied him. “Why doesn’t he just shrink or grow his way out of this mess?”
“Something is wrong with his suit,” Vision analyzed.
“You can tell that from underneath a ridiculous costume?!” Piggy inquired, sounding both amazed and revolted.
“Let’s get him outta there,” Ace said. “You ready, Doc?”
“Ready.” The Doctor gave a firm nod, slightly shaking the head of his costume.
Ace and Colleen dashed to the stage, standing defiantly in front of Scott’s cage. “Alright! Show’s over!” Colleen declared.
“Hey now, what’s goin’ on here?!” Bugsy growled. “You got no business disruptin’ my business, Yu and Yu!”
“We’ve got plenty of business, Bugsy!” Ace growled back. “You got no right caging this fella and putting him on display!”
“I gots plenty of rights, ‘cause this freak’s got no rights of its own!”
“Hey, buddy, I’m standing right here!” Scott grumbled. “Now I know how Charlton Heston felt in Planet of the Apes.”
“We’re gonna stop your sideshow attraction before it ever takes off, Bugsy,” Colleen avowed.
“Oh, yeah?” Bugsy challenged. “Youse and what army?”
“This army!” the Doctor exclaimed before he, Wanda, Vision, Piggy, Beauregard, and Pepe removed their disguises, exposing themselves to every dog in the restaurant that began to panic from their presence.
“Eek! More hairless freaks!”
“And they got some sort of pig, gopher, and shrimp with them!”
Pepe presumed that he fell into that last classification. “I am not a shrimp! I am a king pra—!”
“SHOOT THEM!” Bugsy ordered, only to find himself being the target of his own gang, as they fired on him instead. “Not ‘Them’ as in me! ‘Them’ as in those freaks over there!” He pointed to the Doctor and his companions for emphasis.
The gang turned their Tommy Guns to their intended targets.
Before they could pull the triggers, Wanda used her psionic abilities to disarm them. Bugsy’s gang were spooked by the display of power, running out of the Dog House along with all of the frightened attendees.
“Hey! Where youse guys goin’?!” Bugsy barked. “Youse gonna let a parlor trick scare you like a bunch of fraidy cats?!”
Before Bugsy knew it, he was on the receiving end of a massive karate chop courtesy of Miss Piggy. The mad gangster bulldog was flown across the restaurant, violently smacking against Scott’s cage. The impact broke the lock, subsequently freeing Lang.
“You guys are lifesavers!” He praised his rescuers. “I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to see people that look like me!” He looked to Piggy, Pepe, Beauregard, and Animal and told them, “No offense.”
“None taken, hairless freak,” Pepe snickered.
“Mr. Lang, I’m the Doctor. I need you to tell me how exactly you got to this dimension. It may help us discover a way for all of us to get back home.”
“It was an experiment Bunsen and Beaker conducted on multiverse exploration – something about a guy with a long scarf that gave them the equation they’d been searching for, thirtysomething years ago.”
The Doctor’s eyes flared with recognition. “Adric’s Quantum Realm equation!”
“What?” Scott frowned.
“Do you still remember it?”
“N-No…but my suit records everything. It might have—WHOA!” Scott jumped in surprise once the Doctor began scanning his Ant-Man suit with his sonic screwdriver. “W-What is that thing?!” He glanced over at Wanda – the only person he was previously acquainted with among his rescuers. “Who is this guy?” he asked her, but she seemed too preoccupied with inspecting Bugsy Them’s unconscious body.
“He’s a man you can trust,” Vision told him.
The synthezoid’s company only unsettled Lang even more, as it sparked an uncomfortable memory. “You’re not gonna p-phase through my body like Patrick Swayze again, are you?”
Before Vision could answer, the Doctor finished his scan and told Scott, “Your suit’s sustained some damage on your journey, Mr. Lang.”
“Yeah, that’d explain why I can’t change my size,” Scott acknowledged. “It doesn’t explain why I can’t reach Bunsen and Beaker. I’ve tried to call them to bring me back home, but they’re not answering.”
“Well, they very well may have given us our one-way ticket to your Earth,” the Doctor noted, pocketing away his sonic screwdriver as he began leading the group out of the restaurant. “Let’s get back to the TARDIS.”
As most of them started to leave, Vision noticed Wanda crouching beside Bugsy.
“Wanda?” Vision summoned, but Wanda remained intently staring over Bugsy. Curious, he inched closer to her and asked, “Wanda, what’s the matter?” At close glance, he noticed her slip something off Bugsy’s paw. She finally looked up at him, smiling as she held what appeared to be Bugsy’s ring.
Embedded into the ring was a glowing orange gem…
The Soul Stone.
Chapter 13: Home
“So…can I get you ladies anything? Water, juice…a cookie?”
Hunter C-88 and Minuteman 20122016 stood taciturnly in the console room of Kara’s Type-Z TARDIS. They hadn’t said a word or moved from the spot where they stood since departing from the TVA. Kara and the Doctor went to change clothes and, when they returned a full hour later, the TVA agents were still there as they left them.
Kara could not have felt more awkward around the two.
“Man! The Time Variance Authority really did a number on them, didn’t they?” Kara said to the Doctor, who was tampering away near the Type-Z’s control console. “Why did they wipe their memories?”
“TVA Protocol,” the Doctor replied. “Their dimension was purged some time ago, and they were the only refugees of it. For all intents and purposes, they shouldn’t even exist right now.”
“Any clue on why their dimension was purged?” Kara inquired.
“TVA keeps everything redacted, so there’s no telling what exactly occurred—AH-HA!” That last exclamation spurred from her completion of the thing that she had been fiddling with for the past half hour. It was so small that Kara could hardly catch a glimpse of it as the Doctor brought it over to Hunter C-88 and Minuteman 20122016. “Take off your helmets.”
For the first time since Kara met them, she noticed displays of emotion from the two TVA agents, as they expressed confusion and concern from the Doctor’s instruction. “Why?” Hunter C-88 asked.
“No reason,” the Doctor said. “Just wanna make you both more comfortable.”
Her reason seemed fallible, but the agents nonetheless surrendered their helmets to her. The Doctor handed one to Kara, along with a small silver disc. “What’s this?” Kara asked.
“You’ll see,” the Doctor said. “Place it inside the helmet – it’ll magnetize.”
Kara followed her instruction and, sure enough, the silver disc magnetized along the metallic interior structure of the helmet. The Doctor did the same to the other before handing them both back to the TVA agents. Shortly after Hunter C-88 and Minuteman 20122016 put them back on, both women suddenly went rigid and began screaming in agony, clutching the sides of their helmets. The moment only passed for a second, rendering the agents down on one knee, breathless.
Kara observed it all with perplexing alarm. “What did we just do to them?”
“Gave them back their identities,” the Doctor told her. “That disc we used was Chameleon Arch tech – rebooted their minds to filter out all the TVA gunk and put back what was previously taken out.”
“Where the hell are we?” They suddenly heard Ciciley Livingston (formerly “Hunter C-88”) as she stood back up, warily gazing around her current surroundings.
“Are we still in that weird blue box?” asked Agent X (formerly “Minuteman 20122016”).
The Doctor shrugged at X’s remark. “Didn’t help much with their manners,” she whispered to Kara. Tending to the recovering Ciciley and Agent X, she said, “To answer your rude question: yes, you’re still in that ‘weird blue box,’ but it’s different from the one you were in before.”
“Who are you?” Agent X asked her.
“It’s me – the Doctor. The chap you met in Wakanda, wearing the suit and sandshoes?”
Ciciley questionably gazed up and down at the Northern English brunette in front of her. “Are you the same person? Or is it just a title you’re carrying on?”
“Hold all your questions for later, Agent Livingston,” the Doctor urged. “We’re in the middle of an important mission and the clock’s ticking. My other self’s already got a good start on findin’ the Soul Stone, in addition to havin’ the Mind Stone.”
“That reminds me,” Kara said. “I might know someone I once encountered before in this Earth-M universe that I think can help us in finding the other Stones.”
“Good,” the Doctor approved. “Who is it?”
Kara smirked. “Someone you’ve met before. She once told me how you two were trapped in some sort of labyrinth.”
Working her magic at the controls of her own TARDIS, Kara brought them out of the infinite dimensional corridor and to the Earth-M dimension, specifically the New York Sanctum Sanctorum. They stepped out to see a middle-aged woman in mystic garb waiting for them, as if she had expected their arrival.
“Hello, Sarah,” Kara greeted her.
“Hello, Woman-I’ve-Yet-To-Meet,” Sarah returned. “You’re a whole year early…or am I a whole year early?”
“Anyone wanna explain what the hell’s goin’ on?!” Ciciley griped.
“Oh, it’s a whole ‘time’ thing,” Sarah casually waved off. “I assume you’re here to fix everything that Thanos has broken.”
“Yes, we are,” the Doctor validated. “Is Doctor Strange here? His knowledge of the Infinity Stones will be of great help to us.”
Her question made Sarah sulk in despair. “Strange was…lost…along with half the population of the universe, thanks to Thanos. In his absence, I’ve been keeping watch over the Sanctum in the last five years.”
“Five years?!” Agent X cried. “It’s been five years since we left Earth?!”
“Jesus,” Ciciley groaned.
The Doctor didn’t appear to be too perturbed by this. “We can still get him back – get everyone back. We just have to retrieve the other Stones from across the multiverse. Adric, an old mate of mine, solved the Quantum Realm equation. With that equation, a bit of tech, and a bit of magic, we can get the Stones from whatever realms they’re in, bring them here, and snap everyone back!”
It sounded insane enough to work to Sarah. “I’m in,” she agreed, “especially if it means bringing back Stephen.”
“Brilliant!” the Doctor cheered. “Now we just have to corroborate each realm with the remaining Stones we need.”
“No sweat,” Sarah said. “I’ve learned a trick that allows me to peer into the infinite worlds. Give me a few hours, and I’ll tell ya which of those has the specific Infinity Stones we’re looking for.”
VWORP! VWORP! VWORP!
With the data from Scott Lang’s Ant-Man suit, the Doctor was able bring his TARDIS to what he designated to be New York City of Earth-M. Shortly after materializing, he popped his head out to examine the people and places, making a mental checklist as his eyes darted about.
No surplus population of walking, talking dogs in 1930s zoot suits.
No Ebenezer Scrooge or Gonzo Dickens.
Only humans and Muppets living among each other like normal.
“I think we’ve finally made it back,” he alerted those inside his TARDIS.
Hearing this possible verification from him, Miss Piggy brushed past him and walked out of the TARDIS. Just as she had done before in Dog City, she took a whiff of the air. “Well, I don’t smell dog poop anymore,” she observed. Her snout twinged as it picked up on a familiar aroma. “Wait a sec. I know that smell. That’s…That’s…PIZZA!”
The Doctor smelled it as well. In his examination of their surroundings, he did notice that they had landed near a pizza joint. “Ah! There’s where it’s coming from,” he directed Miss Piggy’s attention to the establishment. “PizzeRizzo! Molto bene!”
“Well, which is it?” Pepe asked, stepping out of the TARDIS along with the others. “Is it ‘PizzeRizzo’ or ‘Molto Bene’?”
The Doctor shook his head. “N-No, Pepe. Molto bene means ‘very well’ in Italian. I was being clever.”
Pepe shrugged. “Not clever enough for the rest of us to understand jou, okay.”
“Story of my lives,” the Doctor bemoaned.
After stepping out of the blue police box, Scott further analyzed the street corner where PizzeRizzo was established. “Hey, I know this area,” he said. “This is where Pete’s Luncheonette is.” Looking directly at the pizza joint, he pointed to it and added, “That’s where it’s supposed to be.”
“Hey, you’re right,” Beauregard acknowledged. “We have lunch at Pete’s every day at this corner. Why’s it now a pizza place?”
“Could we still be in another dimension?” Wanda pondered the possibility.
“Only one way to find out,” the Doctor stated. He walked right into PizzeRizzo’s with his companions following him.
The pizzeria bustled with activity – quite the popular hangout for Muppets and humans alike. The walls were decorated with photos of known New York locations, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, and international places like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There were also framed photographs of Muppet rats; one hung largest over them all was that of Rizzo, the former waiter of Pete’s Luncheonette.
“Ritzo runs this place?!” a stunned Pepe exclaimed.
“Well, I lost my appetite,” Piggy groaned.
“Yo!” They heard someone call out from the mass crowd of customers. Scurrying in between them to approach the Doctor and the others, they saw it to be Rizzo himself, wearing a white t-shirt with the logo of his pizzeria printed on the front. He specifically focused his overwhelming delight on Piggy, Beauregard, Pepe, and Animal. “You guys are still alive! Where’ve ya been dah last five years?!”
“Five years?!?!” the group cried out in shock.
“Dios mio! We’ve been gone for nearly half a decade!” Pepe reflected. “That’s ten times as many Netflix shows I’ll have to binge, okay!”
“Rizzo, what happened while we were gone?” Scott asked. “How did you buy out Pete’s place?”
Rizzo looked at them long and hard, seeing how genuine their surprise was. “Uh…wow…Youse guys ain’t kiddin’ around, are ya? You have been out of dah lop for a while, haven’t ya? How ‘bout we sit down over ‘ere and I’ll explain it all to youse in detail.”
He invited them to sit at an available booth in a quieter area of the pizzeria, away from where the Electric Mayhem – who worked at PizzeRizzo as the establishment’s exclusive entertainment – performed. Animal joined with his old bandmates mid-performance, much to their blissful astonishment, seeing their drummer return after five whole years.
Rizzo filled in Piggy, Beauregard, Pepe, and their (sorta) human friends on the events that occurred in their five-year absence. He began with what happened shortly after they left Wakanda – half of the universe’s population had been wiped out by Thanos. Among the casualties were Pete and Jenny. Following their deaths, Rizzo – in accordance to Pete’s will – became proprietor of the luncheonette, thus transforming it into his own establishment, run entirely by rats. It proved to be a popular endeavor with great entertainment, karaoke, and a celebrity endorsement from the Hulk.
“The Hulk?!” Scott reacted with amusement. “Isn’t that a bit…risky?”
“No way,” Rizzo remarked. “Ya see, he’s—”
Before Rizzo could go into explanation, he was interrupted by Gonzo, who entered the pizzeria with a very large and green individual in casual clothes to fit his frame. As they both approached the booth, Piggy, Pepe, Beauregard, the Doctor, Wanda, Vision, and Scott were astounded to see the large, green individual with Gonzo was a rather intelligent-looking and much calmer Hulk.
“Dr. Banner?” Vision questioned.
“I am so confused,” Scott uttered.
“You and me both,” Wanda concurred.
Banner elatedly waved and smiled to the group. “You guys really are alive,” he said in relief. It was bizarre to see him speaking so coherently in his Hulk form. “This calls for a celebration! Hey, Riz, you still got that special on the menu?”
“Comin’ right up, buddy!” Rizzo happily carried out the order.
After his departure from the booth, Gonzo took his place in conversing with his friends, who he believed to have been lost. “Where did you go? We thought Thanos got you guys, too!”
Neither the Doctor nor the others were even sure how to explain their recent excursion to the weirdo. A heavily distraught Scott instead diverged from the topic to ask Banner and Gonzo, “I-Is there someplace where you can…where I can see all of those who were lost?”
“Um, yeah,” Banner confirmed. “There’s a wall for the vanished – a memorial they keep downtown. But that one’s only for the New York area. If you’re curious to know anywhere else to go, the public library’s got records on all the other names.”
“Thanks,” Scott said, urgently leaving the table. “I’ll see you guys later.”
The others watched him depart from the pizzeria in a rush. Noting how anxious he appeared, Gonzo wondered, “Gosh…he must’ve lost someone really important to him in the Blip.”
“I’m sorry, the what?” The Doctor cringed.
“The Blip,” Gonzo repeated. “It’s what we call what happened to everyone. They just ‘blipped’ out of existence.”
“Who came up with that ridiculous name?” Pepe questioned. “Sounds like that noise jou hear in the cartoons.”
“Hey, Professor!” Rizzo called from the kitchen. “It’s gonna take an hour at least on that special!”
“No prob, Riz,” Banner accepted. “Gonzo and I will kill time with some karaoke.”
“Thought you’d never ask!” Gonzo jubilated. As he left the booth with Banner, he told his friends, “You guys are gonna love this! We do this every time the Professor’s here – and the crowd eats it up more than the pizza!”
They watched Gonzo and Banner head over to the stage where the Electric Mayhem performed, taking position at a couple of mic stands, one of which was modified for Banner’s Hulk-sized hands. While the lights in the pizzeria dimmed, Dr. Teeth played Gonzo and Banner into a jovial duet…
It’s like the perfect match
The missing piece, the other half
Peas in a pod, got each other’s back
Yeah, this is the perfect match
Gonzo and Banner:
There’s never been friends like us
No, there’s never been friends like us
When we’re together, it’s like a million bucks
‘Cause there’s never been friends like us
It’s an adventure, no doubt
NO DOUBT! NO DOUBT!
For whatever, I’m down
Yeah, I’m down! Woo!
Highs and lows, sun or clouds
Yeah, I’ll be there to help you out
Gonzo and Banner:
There’s never been friends like us
No, there’s never been friends like us
When we’re together, it’s like a million bucks
‘Cause there’s never been friends like us
During the karaoke performance by the weirdo and the Hulk, the Doctor leaned towards Wanda and Vision and said, “We have to arrange a meeting with the Avengers, whichever of them are left. With Adric’s Quantum Realm equation and the two Infinity Stones in our possession, there’s a chance we can gather the others in the same way.”
“You are supposing the other realities will have them?” Vision asked.
“We were lucky to find this one when we did,” Wanda told the Doctor, hovering the Soul Stone above the palm of her right hand. “Finding the others across the multiverse is like finding a needle in a haystack.”
“I know,” the Doctor documented her concern. “But I have this feeling that I’m already one step ahead of myself on this.”
EVERYBODY SING WITH US!
There's never been friends like us (Never been friends like us)
No, there's never been friends like us (Never been friends like us)
When we're together, it's like a million bucks
'Cause there's never been friends like us
'Cause there's never been friends like us
There's never been friends like us
Chapter 14: Hope
If there was one thing that had not changed in the five years since “The Snap” (as the public christened it), it was how busy The Daily Chronicle was on a basic afternoon. Kara, Ciciley, Agent X, and the Doctor stopped by the newspaper to get an update on Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo. According to the TemPads that Ciciley and X acquired under their TVA identities, they were returned to their point in Earth-M’s timeline along with Tony Stark, shortly after the Doctor’s arrest.
They were fortunate to have run right into Fozzie, just as they arrived in the bullpen. “Doctor!” he cheered the moment he saw her. “You’re alive!”
“Of course, I am,” the Doctor smirked. “Can’t get rid of me that easily.”
“I thought you might’ve been probed or something,” Fozzie remarked.
“Fozzie, I was arrested by multidimensional police, not abducted by aliens,” the Doctor clarified. “Anyway, that’s not the reason we’re here. Are Kermit and Gonzo around?”
Her inquiry made Fozzie more than a little anxious. “Erm…well…a lot has happened since the last time we saw you.”
“Like what?” The Doctor inquired.
“For starters, Gonzo’s running PizzeRizzo with Rizzo, and Kermit’s…” Fozzie hesitated for a brief moment, choking on his words. “Kermit’s not been the same since…” The bear fought to explain, clearly emotional on the topic. “He went back to the swamp in Florida. He’s lived a life of solitude there in the last five years.”
Hearing this made the Doctor feel more guilt than she already had in her. “I’m going to see him,” she declared before turning to Kara, Ciciley, and X and introducing them to Fozzie. “These are a few new friends I made on the way back. Kara has her own TARDIS that she can take you to the New Avengers Facility in.”
“Why are we going to the New Avengers Facility?” Fozzie asked.
“Because we have a plan to bring everyone back,” Kara told him. “To undo what Thanos did to this universe.”
“Really?!” an overjoyed Fozzie reacted, pumping his furry fist in the air. “Aw, right! That sounds terrific!” He was struck so much with motivation that he was reminded of something important. “Oh, hey! I almost forgot to tell ya: your TARDIS is here!”
“My TARDIS? Here? In this building?”
“No, no. Not here,” Fozzie elaborated. “It’s in the old Muppet Theater near Broadway. I had Mr. Stark help me to bring it there for safe keeping.”
Thanks to Fozzie’s update on the location of her TARDIS, the Doctor went to the derelict Muppet Theater and stepped into her ship for the first time in years. Immediately, she left New York City and headed for the Florida swamp. Somehow, there were preset coordinates inputted in the TARDIS database, and she was automatically brought to a lakeside cabin residence.
“I thought I heard a familiar wheezing sound close by,” a flamboyant voice greeted her arrival. It was Tony Stark, who stepped out of the cabin and approached the Doctor and her Gallifreyan vessel. “I see those coordinates I entered worked to perfection.”
“That was you?” The Doctor responded with amusement. “How did you pull that off?”
Stark shrugged. “It’s impressive what you can do in eight hours, twelve days, seven months, and five years.”
“Aren’t you supposed to begin with the years before the months, days, and hours?”
“I guess I picked up a few habits from our amphibious swamp dweller…who I presume you’re here for.”
The Doctor sighed, briefly distraught over the idea of facing Kermit again.
And then she spotted a small child with a blue-and-gold Iron Man helmet emerge from the cabin behind Tony. “And who is this?” the Doctor asked with an attentive smile.
Stark looked down, detecting the child’s presence. “Oh, this? This is a special creation of mine that I made in-between tinkering with your TARDIS. I had a little help from Pepper, of course.” He then crouched beside the helmeted child (who couldn’t have been no older than five) and told her, “Morgan H. Stark, you should not be wearing that. It’s part of a special anniversary gift I made for Mom.” He gently removed the helmet from the child’s head, revealing the beautiful face of a girl.
“Who’s that?” Morgan asked of the Doctor.
“She’s a friend of Daddy’s who’s come to talk to Kermit,” Tony said. “She’s the Doctor.”
“She’s going to help Kermit get better?” Morgan asked.
“Yeah,” Tony replied. “We hope so.”
After sharing some lunch with Tony, Pepper, and their daughter Morgan, the Doctor headed out with Stark to kayak through the swamp to reach Kermit’s abode. Along the way, the Doctor learned a little more as to why Tony and his family were staying near the swamp, which was mostly to offer their support to the otherwise distant Kermit. When the Doctor shared with him her plan to retrieve all the Infinity Stones from throughout the multiverse, Stark was reserved.
“Any other day, I’d call what you’re attempting an ‘exotic suicide method’,” he expressed. “But, after five years of exploring what that crazy ship of yours is capable of, I’m willing to believe anything.”
“So, you believe it’ll work?” The Doctor queried.
“I didn’t say that. Look, the fact remains that we messed up, thinking that we could collect all those Stones ourselves and save the universe. Now, you want to go back out and do it all over again? The same plan, only worse this time?”
“The odds will be more in our favor, with the entire Avengers team on our side.”
“And there-in lies another problem: facing Captain You-Know-Who again.”
“Tony, there’s more happening here than your petty squabbles – even Captain America would agree on that!”
“Oh, believe me, I know. But there’s something you need to understand, Doc – for the first time in my crazy life, I’m happy. I got a second chance right here, and I can’t roll the dice on it.”
“So, you think the world’s better off from the Snap?”
“I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but I know I am.”
The Doctor scoffed. “And what about Kermit? You think he’ll feel the same?”
“How about you see for yourself?”
Their heated exchange came to a conclusion as their kayak ride grew closer to an area where they heard the strings of a banjo being strummed to a melody both Stark and the Doctor recognized.
However, this rendition of it was more depressing than aspiring…
Why are there so many songs about rainbows?
You’d think they’d get the idea
Rainbows are delusions, just pointless illusions
They’re nothing worth thinking about
So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it
Maybe they’re right, in reality
Such a stupid concept, the rainbow connection
The losers, the weepers, and me
Never had the Doctor heard such a gloomy execution of Kermit’s most iconic song. Tony, on the other hand, seemed to have – evident from what he afterwards shared with the Doctor: “You should’ve heard him last week. He butchered the hell out of Bein’ Green.”
Sure enough, Kermit was there at his usual spot in the swamp, sitting idle on a log and strumming his banjo. The moment she and Stark kayaked a little closer, the Doctor called to him, “Kermit…it’s me.”
Immediately, the frog ceased in his strumming and sat frozen on the log.
He was so stiff that he could almost pass for a stuffed doll, abandoned in the middle of the marsh, refusing to look in the Doctor’s direction.
“It’s good to see ya again,” the Doctor persisted in her address. “I know I’m the last person you’d want to—”
“There’s nothing we have to say to each other!” Kermit snapped.
“You have more than enough reason to be angry with me, Kermit…but if you still have any semblance of hope inside of you, you’ll hear me out.”
“Give me one good reason I should ever listen to you again!”
“Piggy’s alive.” Those two words froze Kermit even more. He finally brought himself to look the Doctor in the eye, seeing if she was speaking truthfully. “She’s with a younger regeneration of me right now, as we speak, helping me to bring everyone back…everyone including Robin.”
There was no reason the Doctor would lie about such a thing.
And if there was even the slightest chance of bringing Robin back, he wouldn’t pass on the opportunity.
“Whatever you got planned, I’ll only do it on one occasion,” Kermit proposed.
“Sure,” the Doctor agreed. “What is it?”
Kermit gazed on Tony and said, “He comes with us.”
The Doctor hopelessly looked to Stark. Their conversation prior to visiting Kermit basically settled where his stance was on the matter, and being Kermit’s emotional support wouldn’t do any favors. However, Stark surprised her as he offered to Kermit, “I’m always here for ya, buddy. Where you go, I go.”
“I thought you wanted to keep your second chance,” the Doctor recalled.
“Yep, well…I lost someone in that Snap, too…and I’ll do whatever it takes to bring him back,” Stark professed. “If we’ve got a shot at the Stones, then I need you to know my priorities. Bring back everyone we lost, hopefully. Keep what I found, definitely.”
“And let’s not die trying,” Kermit added.
The Doctor didn’t take long to consider their terms. “Deal.”
Chapter 15: Preparation
Sarah wasn’t sure what to expect when she stepped through the Sling Ring portal, moving from one universe into another. But she was pleasantly surprised to have seen how very similar the home and training grounds to the Masters of the Mystic Arts appeared in the Earth designated as “616.”
There were students training along the courtyard when she arrived. Her eyes searched for a specific one before she was addressed by a familiar voice: “May I help you?” Sarah turned to see Master Wong approach her.
Of course, this Wong never met Sarah.
For all she knew, Sarah Williams didn’t exist in this dimension.
“I’m here for someone,” Sarah told him. “She’s a student.”
Wong eyed her suspiciously. “I have not seen you around here before. By your robes, you appear to be a disciple. Which sanctum do you hail from?”
Sarah hesitated briefly to respond, but she decided on honesty: “New York.”
“Strange’s Sanctum?” Wong frowned. “That isn’t possible. Unless…” He glanced up and down at her, his suspicions rising. For a moment, Sarah worried for her safety. It was a risk coming to another universe altogether, but it was one many others would be taking real soon…and there was one person she needed from that world to play her own part in it.
After gazing at her for what seemed like minutes, Wong concluded, “You’re from another dimension.”
Sarah was thankful this Wong was as intuitive as his Earth-M counterpart.
“Guilty as charged,” she cheekily confirmed.
“I’m sure there’s a good reason you are here,” Wong said. “But you must realize the dangers that come with such a hazardous journey through the multiverse – believe me when I say that.”
“There are far greater dangers in my world to worry about, and there’s one girl whose existence I’ve sensed across the multiverse that I believe can help me.” Again, Sarah looked towards the courtyard and smiled when she noticed one young, white-robed novice struggling to create her own Sling Ring portal. “And I think I’ve just found her.”
New Avengers Facility – Upstate New York (Earth-M)
“Dum-de-dum-de-dum! Making a sandwich for Captain America!” Sam the Eagle gleefully hummed from the facility’s kitchen, whilst orchestrating a symphony of bread, jelly, and peanut butter. He brought it all together and cut it into the shape of Captain America’s shield emblem. “Perfect!”
He brought it into the next room where Steve Rogers himself and Natasha Romanoff were gathered along with all the other individuals involved in their impending mission: the two Doctors, Tony Stark, Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Pepe the King Prawn, Bruce Banner, Vision, Wanda Maximoff, Scott Lang, Kara, Ciciley Livingston, and Agent X.
There were others called in as well, such as Clint Barton (who was more than ready to bring his family back from the Blip) and James Rhodes.
“One peanut butter and jelly sandwich for you, sir!” Sam announced as he set the plate of food in front of Steve.
Rogers looked on it quizzically. “Uh…I didn’t ask for a sandwich, Sam.”
“I did!” Natasha called, raising her hand.
Sam, however, pretended not to notice. “No…I specifically remember you requesting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on rye, sir.”
“Um, yeah, that was me – Natasha – right here,” Romanoff again called.
Sam groaned, removing the plate from Rogers’ vicinity and taking it over to Romanoff. Rather than delicately set the plate down in front of her, he dismissively threw it down with a loud clang. “Eat in good health,” he grumbled to her, returning to the kitchen.
Fozzie watched him retreat there, his curiosity piqued. “I had no idea Sam worked here. Is he your butler?”
Steve and Natasha simultaneously gave contradictory “Yes” and “No” responses.
“Sam only looks after everything when we’re not here,” Rogers explained. “With the way things have been since…well…you know, it only seemed reasonable to invite him to stay and be our caretaker. But he’s in no way our ‘butler’.”
“This sandwich says otherwise,” Natasha expressed with her mouth full in total satisfaction.
The sound of a loud jet engine of some kind rocketing close over the facility brought everyone’s attention outside where the Benatar – the ship of the Guardians of the Galaxy – landed on the premises. Aboard the ship were Rocket and Nebula, accompanied by John Crichton and Aeryn Sun. Crichton and Sun had also lost their crew (D’Argo, Chiana, Rygel, and Zhaan) in the Blip, just as Rocket and Nebula lost the Guardians (Star-Lord, Drax, Groot, and Mantis). John and Aeryn also bore a son named D’Argo “Deke” Sun-Crichton in the midst of the Peacekeeper-Scarran War, an event that occurred across the galaxy over the last five years.
They brought with them someone who a few believed to have been a bearded, overweight hobo at first, only to discover up close that it was a disheveled and drunken Thor. Scott couldn’t believe his eyes (and nose) when he saw (and smelled) him. “What the hell happened to him?!”
“Don’t ask,” Rocket told him (though Scott could barely process the alien raccoon talking to him).
“If you must know, whoever you are, Thanos happened – amongst other things,” Aeryn said, carrying the two-year-old Deke in her arms. “Most of his people were lost in that snap…the few remaining Asgardians in the entire universe are here on Terra, living in New Asgard.”
“Which is where we found the Big Lebowski over there,” Crichton gestured to the barely cognitive God of Thunder.
“Well, at least he’s here,” the 13th Doctor said. “All we’re missing now is…”
Before she could finish, a Sling Ring portal opened nearby and out of it stepped Sarah Williams and a Latina girl in a colorful denim jacket, black skinny jeans, and black high-top Converse shoes.
“Oh! A fellow Converse, I see,” the 10th Doctor approached the girl. “Nice!”
“Thanks,” the girl returned. “Yours look great, too!”
In the middle of the girl and the Doctor admiring each other’s footwear, Tony nodded to the former and asked Sarah, “Who’s the kid?”
“This is America Chavez,” Sarah introduced. “She’s a living anomaly in the multiverse and literally one of a kind. She’s going to kickstart our mission to find the other Infinity Stones across the multiverse.”
“A fourteen-year-old kid?” Barton gathered.
“Actually, I turned fifteen just last week,” America publicized. She then burst with excitement that she tried to keep contained up until then. “It is such an honor to meet you guys! In every universe I’ve been to, I’ve always hoped there was one where you were real and I could meet you!”
“It’s hard to imagine there aren’t many other worlds with Avengers,” Steve said.
“Oh, I don’t mean you guys,” America elucidated. “I meant them.”
She gestured to Kermit and the other Muppets, beaming as she looked over them.
Steve suddenly felt a comforting pat on his shoulder and saw Stark standing beside him. “Try not to take it so hard, buddy,” he teased at Cap’s expense.
The Abandoned Muppet Theater – Manhattan
“Out of the infinite worlds that I searched through, only four of them are workable around our mission,” Sarah explained to the group. They were gathered downstairs in the cellar, the former site of “Muppet Labs” for Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. In the lab was the object of their desire: a gateway machine constructed with a metal arch over a vacant space, likely where the portal opened.
Some of the Avengers were suited up in their gear, including Captain America with his shield; others, such as Tony and Banner, were dressed like buccaneers for their destinated mission, as were Kermit (a decorated captain), Piggy (a pirate queen), and Pepe (a king prawn pirate).
Utilizing America Chavez’s ability to generate portals, they acted as a conduit for powering the machine; she literally fueled the old, disused generator with a simple punch. Wanda was more than impressed by this feat and told America, “That’s a nifty trick.”
America stared uneasily towards Wanda, her body going rigid. “T-Thanks” was all she could say to her before rushing back over to Sarah’s side where she felt safer. Wanda merely watched her in confusion, wondering why America was so terrified of her, when they hardly even knew each other.
“So, where are we headed?” Natasha inquired.
“Four worlds…four teams,” Sarah said. “Team A will consist of Kermit, Piggy, Stark, Thor, Pepe, Banner, and Lang – your world is in the mid-18th century with many parallels to Treasure Island, and there you will find the Reality Stone. Team B consists of Kara, Ciciley, Agent X, Captain Rogers, Fozzie, and War Machine – the Space Stone is in your world, a universe very similar to this one, except there aren’t any Muppets in it. So, Fozzie…”
“Keep outta sight and not freak anybody out – gotcha!” the bear acknowledged.
Not missing a beat, Sarah continued, “Team C are Gonzo, Crichton, Aeryn, Nebula, Rocket, Romanoff, and Barton – your world will be on a planet called Thra, which will be much different from our Thra, but it nonetheless will have the Power Stone.”
“How different?” Aeryn cagily asked.
“You’ll just have to see for yourself,” Sarah told her. “Last team will be me, America, and Wanda – there’s a world out there with the Time Stone and we’re going there to get it.”
“We’ll remain here to extract the Mind Stone from Vision,” the 10th Doctor said.
“And also keep an eye on lil’ Deke and Bunsen and Beaker’s gateway machine,” the 13th Doctor added. “Each of you were given detector-retrieval bracelets that’ll help you locate the stones and return you here, once you’ve inputted the home coordinates on the keypad. Input them only when you have found the stones.”
“One last thing,” Rogers stepped forward. “Five years ago, we lost…all of us. We lost friends. We lost family. We lost a part of ourselves. But, today, we have a chance to take it all back. You have your teams and assignments. Get your stone, and get back here. One round trip each. No mistakes, no do-overs. Most of us are going to places that we know. That doesn’t mean we know what to expect. Be careful, look out for each other, and improvise if you have to. This is the fight of our lives…and we’re going to win…whatever it takes.”
Everyone was deeply motivated by the speech, especially Aeryn, who wiped a tear from her eye. “You never told me he had such a way with words,” she whispered to her husband.
Crichton smirked. “It’s not every day you get to hear a Captain America speech from the Captain America.”
The 13th Doctor operated the gateway machine from an Apple II series computer that was barely holding together, as it sat on a rickety workbench at the center of the cellar. It was connected to an array of wall-to-wall supercomputers that were just as archaic yet still powerful. She opened the first portal for Team A, who jumped through after a short moment of hesitation.
While the other teams made their jump, America secretly asked Sarah, “Do we really need her to go with us?”
Sarah saw that she was referring to Wanda, whose very presence unsettled America from the second she was brought to the New Avengers Facility. “It’ll be alright,” Sarah told her. “She’s not the same woman you encountered in Earth-616…at least not as long as she still has her Vision.”
Chavez wasn’t completely reassured, but she still trusted Sarah’s intuition.
Their team was the last to jump through the portal, heading into a destination that would put their skills – and sanity – to the test.
Chapter 16: Team A
When Bruce’s bare feet touched sand after stepping through the portal, he knew they were in the right place. Not to mention there were several sentient lifeforms – “sentient” by Muppet standards – along the beach, such as crocodiles, crabs, and even rock formations. The rest of Team A – Kermit, Piggy, Stark, Thor, Pepe, and Lang – emerged shortly after Bruce.
“Man, since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be a pirate,” Banner reflected, taking in the tropical atmosphere around them. His eyes then settled on Stark, noticing something off about his face in the pirate disguise he wore. “Hey, uh, Tony? Did you shave off your goatee?”
“Hmm?” Stark mumbled before realizing what Bruce had asked. “Oh, no. Nat loaned me a nano mask.” He lightly tapped the left side of his face, and the holographic cells rippled and fluctuated between Stark’s actual face (with his signature goatee) and his disguise (sans goatee). “Neat, eh?”
“If by ‘neat,’ jou mean ‘completely disgusting,’ h’okay,” a revolted Pepe said.
“You’re wearing a fake version of your own face over your face?” Lang tried to grasp the concept to no avail.
“Can we focus on the mission, please?” Kermit demanded, his tone bordering on hostile, much to the surprise of his teammates. “Sarah gave us our identities, in case we run into any locals. I’m Abraham Smollett, captain of the Hispaniola. Piggy is Benjamina Gunn, the pirate queen…”
“And love of Captain Smollett’s life,” she tenderly added.
“Right,” Kermit passively acknowledged. “As far as the rest of you guys, I guess you’re supposed to be members of our ragtag crew…except for Scott, who is…”
“The backup hidden in plain sight,” Lang verified, activating his Ant-Man suit and shrinking down to microscopic size to perch atop Tony’s shoulder.
Meanwhile, Bruce glanced at his Hulk-sized detector-retrieval bracelet. The clockface readout offered him a 3D model of the island that they arrived on, highlighting the exact location of the Reality Stone. “Got it,” he announced to his teammates. “We go this way.”
They were about to follow him, until they heard the sound of running water nearby (and it wasn’t the crashing waves). Everyone simultaneously turned to see Thor, standing upon two large rocks and urinating into the ocean.
“Remind me to bleach out my eyeballs when this is over,” Piggy cringed.
Bruce led the way through the jungle, using his Hulk strength to push aside any trees that were in their way. Thor brought up the rear, sipping on cans of beer that he brought along on the mission, having stashed them in his filthy red robe. He would toss them to the ground once finished, leaving a trail.
The sight and smell of him disgusted Piggy, who needed some sort of distraction from the disgraced God of Thunder. “Kermie?” she addressed her amphibious love interest. “We haven’t properly chatted since we were reunited.”
Kermit hardly noticed that she was talking to him. “T-There’s nothing really to chat about, Piggy.”
“Not even those five years you spent, alone in the swamp?”
“I wasn’t alone – I had Tony and Pepper looking out for me…and I was even there for them when Morgan was born.”
“So, you at least had a little happiness in that moment?”
“It wasn’t my happiness to share.”
It unsettled Piggy to see how emotionally reserved he was. Despite the fact that the two lovers were cordially reunited after so much time, there was still a big void left in the heart of Kermit the Frog.
Continuing north of their path, they arrived at a split-level hut that was filled with shiny treasure. Stars and dollar signs filled Pepe’s eyes as he got a look at the various gems, rubies, gold Spanish doubloons, and golden chalices. “Whoa-ho-ho! Would jou look at this place?! There’s enough riches and monies in here to make us set for our lives, h’okay!”
“Yeah, don’t get any ideas, Red Lobster,” Stark reprimanded. “We’re only here for the Reality Stone.” He turned to Banner and asked, “And where is the Reality Stone exactly?”
Bruce hovered his bracelet over various spots in the hut. It beeped like a metal detector, starting off with slow-paced beeps until they rapidly increased when hovered over the Stone’s precise location: embedded in a crown jewel. “It’s here,” Banner notified his teammates.
Kermit went to the crown and plucked the red stone from it. He held it beneath Bruce’s bracelet to confirm that it was the Reality Stone and not just a random ruby. When the detector on the bracelet beeped fast again, they had their confirmation. “Good,” Kermit said. “Now let’s get the heck out of…”
As he headed for the exit, his path was barred by a roguish-looking man in a pirate captain getup, flanked by a crew of ruffians that were both human and Muppet. “Smollett?!” the pirate captain bellowed to Kermit. “We left you hangin’ over the cliffs!” He was as equally shocked to see Piggy standing not too far from Kermit. “And Benjamina?! You’re supposed to be there with him!”
“Their ghosts have come to haunt us!” cried a clueless goat pirate among the captain’s crew of ruffians.
The pirate captain scoffed. “I don’t believe in any ghosts! But I do believe in a couple of escape artists!” He drew his sword, pointing it directly at the throat of a quivering Kermit.
He was only spared from certain death when Stark roared to the pirate captain (with a convincing English accent), “You dare ignore my presence while threatening my prisoners?! Who do you think you are?!”
“I think I be Long John Silver!”
Discovering this, Stark muttered under his breath, “Holy shit.”
“And who be you, stranger?” Silver moved his sword away from Kermit and pointed it towards Tony.
“Who am I?!” Stark feigned offense. “You insult me again, sir! I happen to be the famous pirate captain of the seven seas! I am Captain…Sinbad!”
“De comedian?” Pepe queried before getting kicked aside by Stark.
“I never heard of ya, Captain Sinbad,” Silver proclaimed.
“That’s because I’m elusive, a feat courtesy of my magic abilities,” Tony fibbed.
His claim drew uproarious laughter from Silver and his crew. “The shrimp be right! You are a comedian!”
“You’ve insulted me for the last time, Long John Silver!” Stark yelled. “Now I shall unleash my power on you!” Swiftly, he shot out his right arm towards Silver and his crew. Out of nowhere, one of the ruffians was knocked down by something they couldn’t see. It mortified Silver and his crew, who began to believe this “Captain Sinbad” was a magical swashbuckler.
Unbeknownst to the primitive-thinking pirates, Scott had leapt off Tony’s arm and catapulted himself into the face of the pirate that he punched. Even in his miniature form, the punch had enough effectiveness to knock the pirate out. Piggy, Thor, and Banner assisted by thrashing the bigger members of Silver’s crew, while Kermit and Pepe escaped the hut with the Reality Stone. Noticing them fleeing with a piece of the treasure he and his crew were there for, Silver pursued.
“Get back here with that gem, crustacean!” Silver thundered, gaining on Pepe.
“I am not a crustacean! I am a king prawn!” Pepe declared.
“That is a crustacean, Pepe!” Kermit elucidated during their chase. “Toss me the Stone!” Pepe did as he instructed, drawing Silver’s attention away from the king prawn and putting it solely on Kermit.
He led the pirate captain straight back to the beach, which was an apparent dead end for the frog. “End of the line, Smollett!” Silver mocked. “This time I’ll make certain you die!”
Silver swung his sword at Kermit, who surprised the famed pirate by blocking the swing with his own sword that came with his Smollett disguise. Although his sword was smaller in comparison with Silver’s, Kermit clashed with a ferocity that brought the one-legged Long John Silver to his knees, particularly at the moment Kermit chopped his peg leg into splinters. To Silver, it was an uncharacteristic trait of the dignified captain of the Hispaniola (but no more so than the frog portraying him).
The swordfight came to a decisive end once Kermit successfully knocked Silver’s sword out of his hand, sending it flying into the ocean, several feet away. Silver was now at the frog’s mercy, his sword at his throat. “Easy now, Captain Smollett,” Silver pleaded. “This be unbecoming of you, being a gentleman and all.”
Hocked on adrenaline and anger, Kermit pressed the sword against Silver’s throat, drawing blood. Silver’s eyes fearfully bugged, expecting the man he perceived to be Abraham Smollett to kill him in cold blood. For a long while, Kermit had considered it, until he realized that this intense scene was being witnessed by his teammates, who all caught up with him on the beach and looked on in shock, including Piggy.
Even Kermit himself was alarmed by his violent behavior.
He ultimately decided not to kill Silver, removing his sword from his blood-drenched throat. “Get out of here,” he told the pirate, who didn’t waste a moment in fleeing for his life.
Kermit looked in his hand at the only winning prize from the duel: the Reality Stone. He then heard Piggy softly ask of him, “Kermie? Are you O.K.?”
Closing his fist around the Stone, Kermit replied, “Let’s get Robin back.”
Chapter 17: Team B
Mojave Desert (Earth-012)
Before it became “The Lost Dimension,” the Earth that Ciciley Livingston and Agent X originally hailed from was not much dissimilar from Earth-M, just as Sarah described. In fact, its atmosphere felt exactly the same, even in the intense heat of the Mojave Desert.
Supplied with a black Acura SUV, which were standard vehicles for S.H.I.E.L.D. back when Ciciley and X were agents of the organization, Team B – Kara, Ciciley, Agent X, Captain America, Fozzie, and War Machine – drove towards a massive green military base twenty stories high and fifty feet wide.
The Project Geo base.
“Somehow, I remember it being navy blue,” Ciciley recollected.
“Well, you are color blind, Moms,” X told her.
“Look at the size of that place!” Fozzie awed. “What do they got in there?”
“A geodesic sphere from another dimension,” Ciciley described. “It arrived in this world shortly after the incident in New York with Loki and the Chitauri. We studied it, thinking that it might’ve led to another potential invasion…”
“…and it sorta did,” X vilified.
“Did you say ‘geodesic sphere’?” an alert Kara frowned.
“Our only item of interest here needs to be that Space Stone,” Rogers reminded his teammates. “When one of us finds it, we’ll notify each other and get out in time to jump right back to our Earth.”
His teammates determinedly nodded in affirmation with his idea.
Behind the wheel of the Acura, Ciciley drove to the Project Geo base straight up to its entrance, which was guarded by two armed and uniformed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. One of them looked on Rogers in surprise. “Cap?!” he exclaimed. “Aren’t you supposed to be stationed at the Helicarrier with Agent Hill and Director Fury?”
Luckily, Rogers had been briefed, prior to his team’s arrival, on the whereabouts of his counterpart. So, he had a believable story at the ready: “Fury decided I’d be better use here than at the Carrier. He and Hill are handling the intruder situation with Agent Livingston. Sorry to surprise you boys.”
Accepting the story from Captain America, the one man who was incapable of lying to anyone (ironically), the guard permitted the team entry, opening the main door through a control box mounted against its hull. He pressed a purple button amid a series of multicolored ones, and the main door parted.
All seemed to have been going well. Ciciley was about to drive right through the parted entrance, until the guard once again stopped them. “Hold it,” he specifically addressed her. “You look very familiar.”
Ciciley had anticipated the recognition. In this dimension, she was a highly respected agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., next in line with Nick Fury himself. Of course, certain otherworldly circumstances that occurred during the Project Geo event resulted in her appearance rejuvenated to a more youthful form. Seeing as how those circumstances had yet to occur, that only made her presence with Team B more of a risk.
She wore a black cap and sunglasses to mask her identity, so that she would appear as any ordinary S.H.I.E.L.D. operative.
Unfortunately, this guard’s eye was too keen for it.
“Son,” she heard Rogers suddenly address the guard. “If there’s anything else you would like to address, I’m the person you’d want to say it to.”
The guard immediately stood in attention at Rogers’ stern tone. “Y-Yes, sir,” he stammered, visibly perspiring. “That’s all, s-sir.” As he stepped back from the Acura, he also noticed what he perceived as a stuffed, life-sized Fozzie Bear doll sitting in the backseat with Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes, a blonde in civilian attire, and a redheaded S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. It was just another thing he wanted to address but avoided it in respect of Captain Rogers.
Ciciley wasted no time driving into the base, the entrance sealing shut behind them. She was thankful to have Cap by her side; his assertiveness really saved her and the entire mission for the Stone.
They parked in a large, spacious garage with up to thirty-two other vehicles that were the same make as their Acura. They then went to a large steel door just ahead. To the right of it was a scanner where Agent X placed her right eye, metamorphosing it to physically resemble Nick Fury’s one good eye – same color and all.
A loud, electronic buzz sounded and the large steel door opened inward.
Team B went through and instantly felt a surge of energy come through them, migrating into what appeared to have been an observation deck. “I recognize that energy,” Kara remarked before sighting the massive geodesic sphere housed at the core of the warehouse. “The Quantum Sphere,” she identified it.
“Looks a lot like Spaceship Earth,” Fozzie said, keeping his voice close to a whisper around all the S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel.
“Quantum Sphere?” Ciciley noted Kara’s name for it. “That’s what it’s been called this whole time?”
“That’s what I call it,” Kara said. “It’s been a pain in my butt for the longest time now. I’ve been trying to rid the multiverse of it, because of its unstable properties.”
“Unfortunately, it’s not what we’re here for,” Rogers told her. “The Space Stone is somewhere along the premises. We’ll have to split up to find it. Rhodey and I will masquerade as our counterparts and ask around. Fozzie, you search out of sight. Ciciley and X, you search with Kara.”
“What if we run into our counterparts?” Agent X inquired.
“Not possible,” Ciciley told her. “If my memory serves, you and I didn’t arrive here until much later in the day. So, we should be alright.”
Following Rogers’ lead, the team split into their groups – or, in Fozzie’s case, went entirely solo. The Muppet bear searched in unoccupied areas. Whenever some personnel would walk by, he would pretend to be a doll, just as he did on the way in. It was quite exhausting to keep himself so still for so long, especially when some of the female S.H.I.E.L.D. agents would gush over him.
“I always wanted one of these!” one agent would say.
“He’s so cute! Did someone get him as an anniversary gift?” another assumed.
Once Fozzie was alone again, he would breathlessly reflect, “Woody and Buzz make it look so easy!”
While Fozzie kept with his Toy Story part of the mission, Ciciley and Agent X – assisted by Kara – searched through every classified and restricted area of the base. In the midst of their search, Kara wondered, “Wouldn’t you gals remember exactly where it was, if you’d been here before?”
“Cut us some damn slack,” Ciciley griped. “It’s been 10 years since either of us even stepped foot in this world!”
“We’ve gotten so accustomed to Earth-M, everything here feels almost alien to us,” Agent X stated. “It’s like learning how to ride a bike all over again – and that’s saying a lot for someone who’s never rode on one!”
Leaving one of the rooms they failed to find the Space Stone in, the three women bumped into an old, pudgy woman in a black leather jacket over a white tank top, dark blue jeans, and black boots. She dressed rather “young” for a woman who looked physically sixty to seventy years of age.
“Watch where yer goin’, ya greenies!” she bellowed, moving a few strands of her graying black hair away from her wrinkled face. When she stared directly at Agent X, she gasped in shock. “Mama?! What’re you…?!” She stopped herself immediately when she laid eyes on Ciciley. “What the hell…?!”
Behind her sunglasses, Ciciley’s eyes bulged as she looked on the wrinkled face of her dimensional counterpart, who was somehow in the Project Geo base much earlier than expected. “Aw, shit!” she cursed.
The elder Ciciley Livingston forcibly removed her younger counterpart’s cap and sunglasses, exposing her identity. At first, the old woman wasn’t sure what to make of this bizarre situation, until she cried out one name: “Loki!” She went for the nearest emergency alarm and sounded it, alerting everyone in the base of the three interlopers, one of whom was believed to have been the God of Mischief, much to Ciciley’s chagrin.
On the other side of the base, Rogers and Rhodes heard the alarm, making both men more than a little uneasy. “I’m gonna assume that didn’t originally happen here,” Rhodes said.
“You keep searching for that Stone,” Rogers suggested. “I’ll see what’s going on.”
At the base entrance, the two guards jolted at the alarm buzzing through the outdoor speakers. For a brief time, they speculated what might’ve triggered it. Then they heard a report through their earpieces of the three intruders and the suspicion of Loki being one in the guise of a young Ciciley Livingston.
“Dammit!” the suspecting guard yelled. “I knew that lady looked familiar!”
“Did we really just let Loki into the base?” the other guard nervously measured. “God…Fury’s gonna have our asses for this one!”
As the guards mused over the sudden state of affairs, they both detected a caravan heading their way. Leading it was yet another black Acura; its passengers were Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and – to their baffling surprise – Steve Rogers.
“What’s the matter, soldier?” Fury asked the suspecting guard upon noticing the perplexed look on his face. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
The guard eyed Rogers heavily. He looked exactly like the one from earlier.
“Maybe not a ghost…sir?”
For minutes, Steve wandered aimlessly around the base. It was easy to get lost someplace he had never been before, and not by the standards of the base itself. This entire dimension was like taking a trip back through time…in a completely different timeline. He didn’t want to admit to Fozzie, Rhodey, and the girls, but seeing that “Quantum Sphere” (as Kara called it) weirded him out as much as it intrigued him.
Where did it come from? Was it another strange mystery from space like the Infinity Stones? What was the purpose behind it? How did S.H.I.E.L.D. get their hands on something so big?
These were questions Steve had to put aside to focus on the mission at hand.
The alarms blaring all over the base did nothing to quell his concerns for his teammates. Ciciley, Kara, and Agent X weren’t responding on their comms, neither was Fozzie. Rhodey was the only one he had direct contact with at the height of the crisis. “Any luck finding the Stone?” he asked him.
“This place is like a maze,” Rhodey griped. “Just when I think I’m looking in a new room, it turns out to be the same room!”
“Just relax,” Rogers directed. “It’s got to be here somewhere.”
Rounding a corner, Steve stopped in his tracks as soon as he walked right into another man in a star-spangled uniform much like the one that he adorned for the mission for anachronistic purposes. Sure enough, it was the Steve Rogers of this Earth.
He looked right at Steve guardedly and held one gloved finger along the side of his helmet. “I have eyes on Loki, East Wing of the base,” he informed the personnel, which presumably included Nick Fury and this Earth’s Avengers.
“I’m not Loki,” Steve told his counterpart, gently removing his shield from his back. “And I don’t want to hurt you.”
The other Captain America removed his own shield. “You’re not going to get the chance.” He proceeded to kick Steve in the face, stumbling him. Both counterparts grappled, their shields falling to the floor. They both stamped on them, simultaneously flipping them back to their arms. Impressed, the other Steve Rogers noted, “You’ve really studied my moves, haven’t ya, Loki?”
“I told you, I’m not—!” Steve ducked just as his counterpart swung in for a punch. He countered with a left hook of his own, sending the other Rogers reeling. “I can do this all day…but I don’t have the time for it.”
The other Steve wiped blood from his lip, squaring off. “I’m sure you don’t.”
They battled on, both of their shields clashing.
Of course, the other Captain America proved to be the stronger of the two, younger and fiercer. He caught Steve off guard, swiping at his legs to bring him down and locking him into a submissive choke hold. Feeling himself losing consciousness, Steve made a last act of desperation to appeal to his younger counterpart: “Bucky’s…alive,” he rasped.
He felt the counterpart’s hold on his throat let up, stunned by what Steve just said.
“What did you—?”
Steve shot his head back right into the face of his counterpart, knocking him out cold. Fighting to get air back into his lungs, Steve stood back up, reclaiming his shield and momentarily regarding his unconscious counterpart. “For what it’s worth, you’re more of a fighter than I was at your age,” he told him before dashing off to find his team.
In his haste, he rechecked with Rhodes. “What’s your status, Rhodey?”
The impatient lieutenant colonel did away with the cloak-and-dagger and blasted through wall after wall with the repulsors of his War Machine armor. This tactic drew the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel, who were already informed of Rhodes being one of the deceptive intruders. They cornered him in one of the rooms, though he couldn’t bring himself to fight them, even if some might’ve been HYDRA agents.
Thinking he would have to surrender, Rhodey and the agents suddenly heard movement through the overhead vents. One section of the shaft dislodged and Fozzie tumbled out, landing atop the agents and knocking them all out. “Oh, no!” he lamented as he gazed on the downed agents. “I killed them!”
Rhodey chuckled. “Nah, they’ll be fine. Did ya find the Stone?”
Fozzie shook his head. “No luck. What’re those alarms all about?”
“Nothing good, that’s for sure,” Rhodey said. “C’mon. Let’s go find our team.”
As chaos erupted throughout the Project Geo base, the source of it – Ciciley, Kara, and Agent X – sat in an interrogation room, grilled by Ciciley’s past self. “First thing’s first,” she began, pointing squarely at Agent X. “How did you find out so much about my mother that you conjured this…this…whatever the hell it is?!”
Ciciley groaned. “I can’t believe I was ever this much a pain in the ass.”
“Welcome to my world,” Agent X scoffed.
The elder Ciciley slammed her fists down on the interrogation table. “HEY! Stop acting like we’re the same damn person!”
“Look, Agent Livingston,” Kara addressed, “I know this all appears to be some elaborate scheme from Loki or whoever you believe we are, but that’s not what’s going on here. We’re visitors from another world…another dimension…and we’re here to set right a huge wrong that’s occurred in a realm designated as ‘Earth-M’.”
“This crap again?! I swear, it’s like all these nutcases are coming out of the woodwork today!”
That condescending voice spoke from the door, which had opened so quietly that none of the women in the room heard it even creak. All eyes looked to the individual who entered, and Agent X was stricken to see the face of her previous identity: Agent Sean Livingston. It was like looking into an old mirror. He was dressed exactly the way X remembered in that black coat, shirt, and pants.
Kara was just as daunted by his presence, particularly how the young S.H.I.E.L.D. agent resembled her past eleventh incarnation.
“Moms, what’re you doing here?” he asked the elder Ciciley.
“I came here to have a word with Fury about bringing you into this project, without my consent,” she said. “And then, next thing I know, all Hell broke loose when I found these three.” She gestured to Ciciley, Kara, and X.
Sean closely analyzed Ciciley’s face. “I gotta hand it to Loki, he makes a good you, even if he is trying a little too hard with the age.”
“Alright, that’s it!” Ciciley roared, finally at her breaking point. “You want the truth? Two years from right now, a lot of heavy shit is gonna rain down on ya’ll. First, S.H.I.E.L.D. is gonna collapse after it gets outed that HYDRA has been hiding in the organization the whole time. Then, Sean’s gonna get kidnapped by a fat asswipe who’ll kill our mother – who we discover to be alive and preserved in cryogenic sleep for decades – and merge her body with Sean’s, resulting in this!” She pointed to Agent X, who was more than disgusted by the events Ciciley recapped for their counterparts.
Kara rested her face in her palm. “Never a good idea exposing the future to your past selves,” she uttered in exasperation.
“You really expect us to believe that bullshit?” the elder Ciciley asked.
However, while she maintained disbelief, Sean was more convinced. “I dunno, Moms,” he said. “I mean, look at this one…” He motioned to Agent X. “She does look like Grandmamma…a lot like her.”
“It’s Loki playin’ with your head, baby,” the elder Ciciley refuted. “My mother – your grandmother – is dead. She has been since I was a baby.”
“Then how does Loki know what she looks like?”
The elder Ciciley thought she had the answer, but she found herself stumped.
Suddenly, the door opened again and a female S.H.I.E.L.D. agent entered. Her hair was long and blond, and her skin was fair with discernable cheekbones. Before either Sean or the elder Ciciley could address her, they both unexpectedly fell to the floor and lost consciousness.
Kara looked on their fallen bodies in confusion. “What happened to them?”
“I placed a sleep spell upon them, but it’s only temporary,” the blond agent said.
“Sleep spell?” X frowned. “Are you another sorceress?”
The blond agent nodded. “I am, but not the kind that sent you here. My name is Yen Sid, but here I am under the guise of Agent Stevens. You three are here for the Space Stone, are you not?”
“Yeah, but…” Ciciley started, only to be interrupted by this strange “Yen Sid” character when the Tesseract – the placeholder for the Space Stone – materialized right in her hand. She handed it over to Agent X.
“It’s useless to this world now,” Yen Sid told them. “Take it and finish your mission…or else Earth-M will fall to Merlock and the Twilight Phantom, just as other universes already have.”
Her warning alarmed Kara. “Did you say ‘The Twilight Phantom’?!”
Yen Sid didn’t clarify. Instead, she vanished in a flash of light from the interrogation room with Sean and the elder Ciciley. They were immediately replaced by Rogers, Rhodes, and Fozzie, who appeared in the room under the same mystical context.
“How did we get here?” Rhodey asked, his eyes darting around puzzlingly.
“Yeah, one second, we were lost in the middle of a hallway, and the next second, we’re here!” Fozzie exclaimed.
Steve was relieved to see Agent X holding the Tesseract in her gloved grips.
“You have it,” he said. “Where did you find it?”
“Don’t ask,” Ciciley insisted. “Let’s just get the hell up outta here!”
Chapter 18: Team C
Years ago, Gonzo learned that he was an alien from the cosmic superhero the universe knew as “Captain Marvel.” Of course, he knew her by her Earth-born name, Carol Danvers, when Carol herself discovered that she was Terran. Ever since then, Gonzo had been fascinated with space and the endless wonder that lied beyond the stars.
Landing on Thra with the rest of Team C – Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff, Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, John Crichton, Aeryn Sun, Nebula, and Rocket Raccoon, he got that opportunity with seeing the lush and green atmosphere of the planet.
Crichton, Aeryn, Nebula, and Rocket were just as amazed to see it.
“It looks so…different here,” Crichton noted in wide-eyed amazement.
“How does it look in our dimension?” Gonzo asked.
“Mostly dead,” Rocket replied in an offhand manner.
Barton surveyed the land, wishing there was some sort of directory to guide them. “So…where do we even begin looking for our Stone?”
“On Thra, the Power Stone is what energizes the Crystal of Truth,” Nebula said.
“And what’s that?” Romanoff inquired.
“The beating heart of Thra,” Aeryn told her.
“Is it really a good idea to take the Power Stone from this reality?” Crichton pondered. “That’s exactly what put it in the state of decay in our reality.”
“We’ll return it, once we’ve accomplished our mission,” Aeryn reassured.
As the rest of the team were deep in their discussion, Gonzo spotted something in the distance that suddenly caused him to separate from the group and run off. “Gonzo!” Crichton called out. “Where you going?!”
The weirdo didn’t give him a direct answer, which only prompted Natasha to volunteer, “I’ll go get him.” She curiously pursued Gonzo across a meadow, until they stopped at a tall, wide tree in the midst.
Gonzo looked around its base, perplexed and in quite a rush. “Where did he go?!”
“Where did who go?” Natasha asked him, right before she felt something small and hard fall on top of her head. It only stung for a brief second, but it nonetheless drew her curiosity as to where it came from.
The same thing happened to Gonzo, only he reacted in more agony. “Owww!”
Natasha figured it must’ve been acorns falling from the tree, directing her attention up towards the tree. A smirk developed on the usually stern face of the Black Widow when she spotted a small creature sitting in the tree. It sported tridactyl hands and small beady eyes on a potato-shaped head that lacked external ears. It welded a wooden spoon as some sort of weapon, while cursing at Natasha and Gonzo in an alien language.
“There he is!” Gonzo looked up as well.
“This lil’ guy was who you were chasing?” Natasha indicated the alien. “He looks harmless.” She returned her gaze on the creature, gingerly waving hello to it. “It’s O.K. We’re not gonna hurt ya.”
The creature again shouted in his foreign language, jumping from the tree and landing into a defensive stance right in front of Gonzo and Romanoff. With its wooden spoon, it struck Gonzo on the head and Romanoff on the leg. “Ouch!” the former griped. “He’s sure gonna hurt us!”
“What’s going on?” They heard Barton approach with the rest of the team.
Aeryn noticed the creature Gonzo and Romanoff encountered, recognizing its species. “That’s a Podling. One of the natives of this planet.”
“Are they always so violent?” Gonzo asked, dodging more swings from the so-called “Podling” creature. “As fun as this is, it’s starting to get really annoying! Can somebody stop this guy?!”
Rocket obliged to the weirdo’s request by taking out a small blaster and firing a concentrated laser that blew the wooden spoon out of the Podling’s grip. Terrified, he saw it rendered to ash that scattered over the grass. Now defenseless, the Podling cowered at the powerful visitors towering over him.
Natasha, however, attempted once more with a gentler approach. She placed a hand on her chest and enunciated, “Na…tash…a.” It was her way of not only establishing peace with the creature but communicating via introduction.
The Podling seemed to understand, growing calmer and responding with one word: “Hup.”
“Hup?” Barton repeated the term. “Is that his name?”
Romanoff shrugged. “I think so.”
“Well, unless ‘Hup’ can show us the direction of where the Power Stone is, we’re wastin’ our time here,” Rocket objected. “Let’s go find that castle ourselves.”
On the word “castle,” Hup’s anxiety kicked in again, shouting repetitively in his distinct language. Crichton gathered from the Podling’s attitude, “I don’t think he wants us to go anywhere near that castle.”
“Maybe he can take us there,” Natasha suggested.
Noting her connection with the Podling, Barton presumed, “Are you finding some sort of kindred spirit with this little guy?”
Natasha smiled and shrugged. “Perhaps. I think Hup is Thra’s Avenger.”
Although Hup didn’t fully understand, something about the word “Avenger” struck much inspiration in the Podling – enough to assist the outsiders on their bold journey. Of course, much later, as the group reached the Castle of the Crystal, Hup began to lose his nerve.
The castle stood amid a more foreboding area of Thra, shrouded in darkness.
“I can see why the lil’ guy didn’t want us to come here,” Crichton said, sharing Hup’s apprehension.
Gonzo did as well. “I-If it’s all the same to you guys, I-I’ll s-stay here with Hup.”
“Good idea,” Barton approved. “Maintain radio contact.”
Gonzo and Hup stayed hidden behind a large rock while the rest of the team stealthily snuck inside the castle. There, looking in from the shadows, they discovered a race of reptilian, bird-like creatures surrounding the crystal in a chamber at the heart of the castle. “The Skeksis Empire,” Aeryn identified them.
“What the hell are they doing?” Crichton wondered. “Praying to it?”
“It’s the Ceremony of the Sun,” the gravelly voice of an old woman spoke from behind the interlopers, spooking them into nearly exposing themselves to the Skeksis. Turning around, they noticed a one-eyed, noseless horned creature with silvery hair, leathered dark brown skin, and a hunched posture. Aided by a walking stick, she somehow snuck up on the team without so much as making a sound. “You are not of this world or any world within this one,” she said of the interlopers.
“What gave it away?” Rocket derided.
“You must turn back,” the old creature urged them. “Abandon your quest for the Power Stone and leave this Thra be.”
“How do you know so much about our quest?” Natasha asked her.
Aeryn eyed the old hag with familiarity. “Because she’s Aughra – the eyes and voice of Thra,” the Sebacean once again flexed her planetary knowledge. “You’re her living embodiment of it.”
“You have great intelligence in you, Peacekeeper,” Aughra said.
“Former Peacekeeper,” Aeryn clarified. “And we give you our word that the Power Stone will return to Thra, once we’ve completed our quest.”
“I cannot allow it!” Aughra firmly (and loudly) denied.
Luckily, her boisterous tone was drowned out by a thunderous noise that roared outside the castle walls. The team barely heard Gonzo over the radio when he alerted, “Hey, uh, guys? A really big spaceship just dropped in from the sky and is hovering right over the castle!”
“What kind of spaceship, Gonzo?” Crichton asked.
“I don’t know! Like any other alien spaceship?” Gonzo said. “It’s massive, that’s for sure. Almost like it belongs to some evil intergalactic warlord.”
While vague, his description of the spaceship alarmed Nebula, who knew of only one individual that traveled in such a craft. Her suspicions were proven as soon as an imposing figure in shimmering, blood-soaked golden armor materialized inside the chamber. Its presence terrified the Skeksis gathered there into bowing and praising the figure by its name: “Lord Thanos.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me!” a mortified Crichton gasped. The horror was synonymous with his teammates, as they all looked on Thanos, who carried his double-edged sword into the castle with him.
“You can come out now,” he addressed the specific corner of the shadows where the team took cover. “I know what you’re doing in this dimension. There’s no use in hiding anymore.”
Following on his mock recommendation, the team manifested with each of their weapons trained on the Mad Titan. Nebula in particular emerged with a question: “How are you here? You used the Stones from our world…rendered them to atoms…and it killed you!”
“I was on the verge of death…until a stranger from another universe revitalized me,” Thanos explained. “He told me that my work isn’t done…that there was an entire multiverse to be corrected.”
“The multiverse is just fine!” Crichton contested. “It doesn’t need your Barney-looking ass anywhere near it!”
“You have no idea how wrong you are, John Crichton,” Thanos coldly refuted. “I cannot allow any of you to undo my work.” He proceeded to engage in a fierce battle with Crichton, Aeryn, Romanoff, Barton, Rocket, and Nebula – none of whom were any match for the Mad Titan, who had somehow grown more powerful even without the aid of the Infinity Stones.
It was only when Rocket managed to plant a plasma grenade onto Thanos’ back and detonate it that they gained the upper hand. Downed, Thanos turned to the heavens and desperately beckoned, “Gamora! Assist me!”
Nebula thought he was praying to the spirit of a dead woman, before another figure materialized in the chamber. To Nebula’s shock, it was indeed Gamora, but not quite the one Nebula knew when she last saw her. It was a Gamora who was still loyal to Thanos, adorned in war armor similar to the days when she and Nebula trained together.
Memories of that training flooded back to Nebula, as she found herself now engaging with Gamora, whose swiftness, speed, and precision were too much for the team to keep up with. While she had them distracted, the recovering Thanos made for the Crystal of Truth, hurling his sword like a javelin towards it. The crystal shattered and triggered a chain reaction that sent all of Thra spiraling into chaos. The earth quaked, knocking all of those inside and outside the castle off their balance.
The Power Stone lied among the pile of crystal shards, waiting for Thanos to retrieve it. Before he could, however, Romanoff got to it first. “Finder’s keepers,” she teased the Mad Titan, prior to tossing the stone over to Barton. It was an act that ultimately was her undoing.
I shouldn’t have taken my eyes off him…even for a second.
That was the thought that ran through her mind, as she felt the blade from Thanos’ double-edged sword tear through her torso from the back. The blade was large enough to go through her entire front, from her neck down to her lower abdomen, slicing every vital organ. The pain was excruciating, yet Natasha still assembled a confident smile for Barton and the rest of her team.
The Hawkeye nearly dropped the Power Stone that he succeeded in catching, watching in horror as Natasha’s lifeless, impaled body slid off the colossal blade and to the floor. Caught in a grieving trance, Barton hardly heard Nebula calling for him to retreat along with the remaining team members, driven by the entire castle splintering and collapsing all around them.
Thanos and Gamora made their own tactical retreat, beaming back aboard Sanctuary II. “Forgive me, Father,” Gamora begged, as soon as they were aboard. “I should have cut the Terran woman down as soon as she had the stone.”
Thanos looked out from the nearest window, seeing the ship registered to the Guardians of the Galaxy ascending towards the sky. Once it was near the clouds, some sort of portal opened, large enough for the ship to fly through it and vanish out of existence. “So, that’s how they’re doing it,” Thanos muttered.
Reminded that Gamora was in the room with him, Thanos turned and requested, “Have Maw scan that singularity right away.” He pointed directly to the portal that was beginning to close. “We haven’t lost just yet.”
Chapter 19: Team D
Los Angeles, 1938.
That was where Sarah, Wanda, and America arrived to, once they stepped through the portal and appeared in the middle of a dark, dirty alleyway. The setting was a stark contrast to the enchanting nightclub across the street – the “South Seas Club,” according to the bright neon sign above the entrance. Men and women in the most elegant suits and dresses walked in.
Sarah, Wanda, and America were in no way dressed for such a fancy venue.
“This is where the Time Stone is,” Wanda gathered, pointing directly to the club. “Do we have a reservation?”
“We don’t,” Sarah said, “but Jenny Blake does.”
“And who’s Jenny Blake?” America asked.
While Wanda and America’s gaze had been fixed on the nightclub, a flash at each of the corners of their eyes directed them to where Sarah stood. Suddenly, the middle-aged sorceress in mystical/casual apparel had given herself a magical makeover, now appearing as a younger version of herself, adorned in a beautiful white gown.
“Ladies, this evening, the role of Jenny Blake will be played by yours truly,” Sarah teased, even her voice sounded younger.
Wanda and America were spellbound by how radiant Sarah looked as Jenny. “Not bad, Miss Williams,” America complimented. “This is a huge improvement!”
Sarah’s rejuvenated face fell. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m just saying…you look more like a woman with purpose now,” America said.
“More like a woman who hasn’t let time and life pass her by,” Wanda pitched in.
“More like a woman who doesn’t look like someone’s grandma.”
“ALRIGHT! I get the picture!” the beyond insulted Sarah stormed. “You two will keep a lookout from here, while I go in and get the stone. In about half an hour, this nightclub is going to be crashed by a bunch of gangsters who are after a prototype rocket pack, designed by Howard Hughes himself.”
“You still haven’t told us how the Time Stone fits into this,” Wanda griped.
“Neville Sinclair, who’s a big-shot movie star in this dimension, will try to woo me…Jenny with an ‘expensive’ gem necklace,” Sarah explained. “The gem in that necklace is the stone we’re here for.”
Making sense of the mission, America realized, “Wait. What about Sinclair? Are you just gonna take the stone and ditch him?”
“No offense, but that’s pretty cold,” Wanda disapproved.
“Did I forget to mention he’s a Nazi agent?” Sarah added.
Hearing this, Wanda and America quickly changed their opinions:
“Oh, then, by all means, break his heart.”
“Drop that asshole.”
And with their approval, Sarah proceeded onward into the South Seas Club, leaving Wanda and America alone together in the alleyway. America hoped Sarah wouldn’t leave her with Wanda, and yet there they were. Not two minutes in, America already wanted to break away from the plan and follow Sarah inside. The only thing that stopped her was the thought of an underdressed Hispanic girl waltzing into a club full of predominantly white guests in 1938.
“Is there something I did to you in another world?” She suddenly heard Wanda ask. Having tried to avert making eye contact, America looked her way to see how concerned she was.
“N-No,” America deflected. “Why do you ask?”
“Because you’ve been uncomfortable around me, ever since Sarah brought you in. I’ve seen that look plenty of times to know when I’ve hurt someone…and I can only figure that a version of me in another world has hurt you in some way. So, what did she do?”
America really didn’t want to have this conversation, but there was no hiding her anxieties. “You tried to take my powers,” she eventually told Wanda.
“Why would I want your powers?”
“You wanted to see your sons again.”
Wanda frowned. “My sons?! I have children in this other world?”
“They were never really your children. You conjured them from magic – the same magic you used to trap an entire town in a fabricated reality.”
Wanda was perturbed by these details. “Why would I do any of that?”
America hesitated to divulge the next bit of information to her: “Because you were grieving over the death of Vision.”
Wanda’s hand reflectively went to her mouth in a staggered gasp.
“You – the other you, I mean – did not take his death well at all. She did things that were…a nightmare. She killed people…innocent people…people who tried to protect me from her…from you! I…I still hear their screams…I still see their bodies whenever I close my eyes!”
Wanda saw how increasing distressed America was, recalling these memories.
It made sense as to why the young girl was so afraid to be near her.
As America looked towards the ground with tears streaming down her eyes, she felt a comforting hand come down on her right shoulder. Looking up, she saw Wanda with sincere warmth in her smile and eyes that were also flooded with tears. “I’m sorry she did that to you,” Wanda said. “The last thing I’d ever want is to hurt anyone. And, as much as I love Vis, he would never want me to become that person, not even in grief. He’s still alive in my world…and I intend to keep it that way.”
Her warmth was welcoming to America; she was moved enough to hug Wanda.
Wanda returned the embrace, hoping that it was the beginning of a new understanding between them.
Painful as America’s memories might have been, Wanda was still curious to know more about these sons her counterpart mothered in the fabricated reality. Before she could have asked, she and America heard what sounded like a jet rocketing close overhead. They took cover behind a few trashcans, just as what looked to be a literal rocket man landed in the alleyway.
He removed his steel helmet to reveal the face of a handsome young man who headed straight for the rear of the South Seas Club. “Is that one of the ‘gangsters’ we’re supposed to be looking out for?” America questioned.
Wanda shrugged. “Sarah didn’t specify what they’d look like. Let’s follow him and make sure that he doesn’t get in the way.”
Downing glass after glass of champagne was the only way Sarah was going to get through the night, pretending not only to be Jenny Blake but also pretending to be interested in Neville Sinclair. The entire time, he fed her with flattering remarks of her (Jenny’s) beauty, each of which the older and more mature Sarah saw right through. All Sinclair cared about was getting info on Jenny’s real boyfriend, Cliff Secord, who was the legendary Rocketeer in this reality.
After a while, Sinclair caught onto Sarah’s tedium, which he pretended not to take offense to. “I’m not boring you, am I, dear?”
Yes, you are, you Nazi prick.
“No, not at all.” Jenny’s sweet and innocent young voice was convincing, even to Sarah’s ears. She remembered when her own voice sounded that way at Jenny’s age, before it mellowed even more over time. “Neville, was there something that you wanted to give me? A special item as an apology for what happened at the studio?”
Sinclair was surprised by her intuitiveness. “My dear, however did you guess?”
Sarah playfully (and scathingly) giggled. “A girl knows these things when a man showers her with compliments in such a sophisticated establishment like this.”
Sinclair was prepared to show her the necklace that she waited all night for, until a bumbling waiter approached their table, crudely handling their dishes, silverware, and food. Sinclair was irked by his carelessness, ceasing in his presentation of the necklace, much to Sarah’s chagrin. She only got more peeved once she realized the waiter was in fact Cliff in disguise. Aw, shit.
He put a note in her soup bowl: “Meet me by the big fish now.”
Annoyed, Sarah excused herself from the table, at the same time Cliff walked away from it himself, leaving Sinclair to sit alone. Sarah walked to where the “big fish” (a giant stone statue) was, suddenly yanked into the shrubbery beneath it. She found herself face-to-face with Cliff. “You dumbass!” she scolded him in a hushed tone. “I had him right where I wanted him, and then you go and ruin it!”
Cliff scowled at her. “Had who? Sinclair? Jenny, what’re you talking about?”
“Look, Cliff…prepare yourself for a shock. I’m not Jenny Blake.”
“Yeah, sure, and I’m Errol Flynn.”
“I’m being serious right now, Cliff!”
“And so am I, Jenny. Bigelow’s been murdered. Remember the rocket we found? The people that are looking for it murdered Bigelow to get to me.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You do?” Her awareness flabbergasted Cliff, until he was able to reason it out. “Of course, you do. It’s probably all over the street by now. But there’s something else you need to know, Jenny: I’m the…”
“The Rocketeer,” Sarah finished for him. “Yeah, I know that, too.”
Cliff was frozen in disbelief. “Did Peevy tell you?!”
“Then how did you know?!”
“Because I’m not Jenny Blake!”
“Then who are you?!”
Sarah was robbed of her opportunity to explain herself to Cliff when she noticed some of Eddie Valentine’s gangsters scouring the club. “Shit! They’re here!” she cried. “And I haven’t had a chance at getting the Time Stone from Sinclair…no thanks to you!”
“Time Stone?” the baffled Cliff repeated her words, before he also detected Valentine’s men outside the foliage they hid in. “Jenny, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but you need to get out of here now.”
“I’m not going anywhere until I’ve gotten that stone!” Sarah declared right before she darted out of the vegetation to the protest of Cliff, who himself fled to parts unknown. When she returned to the table, Sinclair was nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, the case he kept the necklace in was there, and she went for it straightaway. She opened it to confirm that the Time Stone was there, and a huge, accomplished grin grew on her face once her hazel eyes looked on the emerald Infinity Stone.
Trailing the bizarre rocket man brought Wanda and America into the club’s laundry room, but they didn’t see him anywhere. At least, not until he rushed right in, ditching his waiter disguise and locking the door behind him. He screeched to a halt as soon as he spotted Wanda and America. “What’re you two doin’ in here?” he asked them.
“We would ask you the same question,” Wanda countered.
The door Cliff locked buckled from something or someone that began to violently ram it on the other side. “Listen,” he warned Wanda and America. “There are some very dangerous men on their way here, and I left something in that pile of laundry bags over there that I need right now to get away from them!”
Wanda glanced over to the pile he mentioned. Using chaos magic, she scattered the bags and their contents altogether, revealing one rocket pack among them.
Cliff was dumbfounded to witness what Wanda had done to expose his jetpack.
He didn’t have time to ask or ponder the logistics of it, with the dangerous men close to getting in the room. He went for his rocket pack immediately, strapping both it and the helmet on. As he climbed the laundry chute, the pursuing men succeeded to barge in.
Wanda and America were put off by the tall, monstrous appearance of one man, who was undoubtedly the muscle. “Where is he?” he asked in a low, haunting voice that was like an old, creaking door.
America tried not to look back towards the chute as she played dumb for the gangsters. “Where’s who?”
These men were not as dense as she hoped.
They advanced on Wanda and America, which they would soon realize to be a huge mistake, as the super-powered women took a defensive stance.
Sarah was just on her way out of the South Seas Club, with the Time Stone in hand, when some commotion erupted within the club. She figured it was due to Cliff doing his “Rocketeer” thing against the forces of Neville Sinclair and Eddie Valentine’s thugs. But, when she discovered Wanda and America weren’t waiting in the alley where she left them, she started to assume the worst about what was really happening in the club.
The rush of panicked guests, bolting out of the club, barred any way back inside.
As such, she resorted to using magic, generating a Sling Ring portal connected to the club’s interior. Leaping through it, she was less than surprised to see Wanda and America engaged in combat with Valentine’s men. Both women were working as a formidable team, performing a combination of chaos magic and extra-dimensional energy manipulation to do away with most of the thugs – either driving them insane or banishing them to another realm.
Meanwhile, Cliff was rocketing around uncontrollably, managing to take out a few more thugs in the process.
Sarah was about to join in on the fun, only to run right into Neville Sinclair.
“Don’t go, Jenny,” he told her, dropping the charm. “Our evening’s just begun.”
He intended to knock her out with a chloroformed handkerchief, but Sarah was wise on his attempt. She opened another Sling Ring portal behind him, leading into an icy dimension trapped in an endless snowstorm. Sensing the chill creep up on the back of his neck, Sinclair turned and faced the portal. “What in God’s name is…?!” His wonderment of the supernatural singularity was disrupted by Sarah, who kicked him in his backside, sending him through the portal.
Sarah closed it thereafter, sarcastically dusting off her hands.
She then grouped up with Wanda and America, soon after they disposed of the last Valentine thug. “Nice to see you two getting along,” Sarah acknowledged.
“Yes, it is,” Wanda said, sharing a smile with America.
“You got the Time Stone?” America asked, and Sarah responded by holding up the necklace case.
The three women were ready to depart with their prize.
“Jenny!!!” a muffled voice called, followed by the roar of a rocket. Sarah, Wanda, and America watched Cliff skid to a halt near them, removing his helmet and addressing Sarah once more. “I have no idea what just happened here. All of the sudden, these two…witches show up and start with these parlor tricks? I mean…what the hell’s going on here?!”
With Sinclair out of the picture and the Time Stone obtained, Sarah saw no other reason to keep up the charade and lead Cliff into believing she was someone she wasn’t. Right before his very eyes, she morphed back into her true appearance – a fifty-year-old version of Cliff’s girlfriend in mystic robes and blue jeans.
It was the biggest turn of the night for Cliff Secord, although he was forewarned.
“You were telling the truth this whole time,” Cliff said. “In that case, where’s the real Jenny Blake?”
“She’s safe, Cliff,” Sarah reassured. “I sent her a letter on your behalf, letting her know how important she is to you and how you’d go out of your mind, if anything were to happen to her.”
“Oh,” Cliff uttered, touched by the sentiment. “T-Thanks.”
She nodded in return, activating her detector-retrieval bracelet, which opened the gateway back to Earth-M. Cliff watched in wide-eyed, open-mouthed astonishment as Sarah, Wanda, and America departed from his world and returned to their own.
The three members of “Team D” reemerged in the Muppet Theater cellar where the other three teams were already gathered. Everyone was present and accounted for, one member from each team holding the Reality, Time, and Space Stones in their respective casings (Reality – the crown jewel, Time – Sinclair’s necklace, and Space – the Tesseract). The two Doctors had also effectively and safely extracted the Mind Stone from Vision, who welcomed Wanda with a hug.
“We did it!” America cheered. “We got them all!”
No one outside of their team shared her jubilation. In fact, for the first time since they reemerged through the gateway machine, Team D noticed how somber the mood was in the cellar. “What happened?” Sarah asked, only taking notice after the fact that not everyone was present and accounted for, as she initially thought.
“Where’s Natasha?” Wanda specifically asked Vision.
His android countenance registered authentic despair as he advised Wanda, “You may want to sit down.”
Chapter 20: Snap
It went without saying: Craig Williams hated math. He hated looking at the numbers, he hated figuring out at what time Train A would get to Train B, and he even hated the word “math” itself. He would rather be on an adventure out in the Infinite DC with Kara; but she would just have him do his homework first. Much as he loved this thirteenth incarnation of Neas, Kara acted more like a mom than Craig’s actual mom.
He wondered where Kara had been the last few days. He hadn’t seen her next door or at the creek. He didn’t want to start worrying like the last time he didn’t hear from Neas. One day, he just left, and when he came back, he had regenerated into Kara. Well, not directly. According to her, there was one in between them that he had yet to meet – an incarnation named “Cici” who Kara described as being like the Doctor’s tenth form, only less vain.
As he sat distracted with thoughts about his Time Lord friend, his phone suddenly vibrated on his desk. The caller ID showed it to be Kara, with a picture of them posing by the open door of her TARDIS and the dimensional corridor swirling in the background. She was calling through Face Time, so when Craig accepted it, her beautiful face popped up on his phone.
“Kara!” Craig cheered, only to be reminded afterwards that his parents think he’s studying. He lowered his volume as he continued the conversation, “Where have you been? I’ve been worried about you.”
“I’m alright, lil’ bro,” Kara told him. “I just…had a lot to take care of.”
Craig detected the bleakness in her voice. “Is everything OK? You sound…sad.”
Kara sighed. “Someone just died…I wasn’t there when it happened but…”
“You still feel responsible?”
Craig knew her all too well by this point in their friendship. Kara felt exactly that way. “Have I told you how much of a smart lil’ dude you are?” she said with a smile, the first one she managed to put on in the last hour since news of Natasha Romanoff’s death.
“This person who died…was it like a heroic death? Did she die saving the world?”
“She just might have. There are these gems we were collecting called Infinity Stones, and she sacrificed herself to get the Power Stone for us. We’re working on constructing a gauntlet to put them all in, so that someone can bring all the people that were lost in this dimension back again.”
Craig’s fist clenched; he was missing out on what might’ve been one of Kara’s coolest adventures. He then realized, “Wait…did you say these Infinity Stones are gems? It sounds a lot like the Ornaments of Disorder in the Slide the Ferret series. You collect each ornament in the game, and once you have them all, Slide can turn ‘Super Slide’ anytime in the game and…” He paused when he saw Kara chuckling. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, lil’ bro,” she gathered herself. “Just remind me to introduce you to someone in one of our journeys, one day. I think you’ll really like him.”
“Oh, okay,” Craig agreed. “I’m really glad you’re alright, Kara. I miss you.”
“Miss you, too, sweetheart. And thanks.”
“For reminding me what I can look forward to, once this is all over.”
She blew a kiss to him that he pretended to catch and ended the call. Kara breathed a sigh of relief, sticking her phone in the back pocket of her skintight jeans. She could always count on Craig to bring a smile to her face, just by being himself. She was glad that he was away from all the mayhem happening in Earth-M.
“You O.K., little guy?” She heard Ciciley Livingston ask someone in the adjacent backstage area. Peeping in, she noticed Ciciley and Agent X crouching beside the Podling Team C picked up from their mission to Thra – the one named Hup.
Hup had been crying since the moment he came to Earth-M, and the two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents suddenly took notice. “He’s the last survivor of his world,” Kara stepped in and told them. “When Thanos destroyed the Crystal of Truth to get to the Power Stone, he’d also destroyed Thra…Hup’s entire world is gone.”
The Podling sniffled, lamenting in his native tongue.
“Poor little guy,” Agent X empathized. “He’s a refugee, just like Moms and me.”
Ciciley hadn’t thought of it that way. It only made her sympathize with Hup more.
With Thanos’ discovery of their plan, time was of the essence. Using the available (and outdated) source of tools in Muppet Labs, along with the technology Tony brought with him, he constructed a new Iron Man gauntlet that held each of the six Infinity Stones in place with nanotechnology.
As soon as it was completed, everyone then pondered the one big question…
“So, who’s gonna put this thing on and snap-crackle-pop everyone back?” Crichton asked. “I’m just gonna put it out there and say ‘Not it’.”
Aeryn shook her head at her husband. “Despite John’s riveting display of courage,” she said in obvious sarcasm, “he’s right. This gauntlet is channeling with energy powerful enough to light up fifteen cities on ten planets. None of you Terrans are equipped to handle it – no offense.”
“What about a Sebastian?” Pepe queried.
Aeryn frowned at the king prawn. “Who’s Sebastian?”
“It’s what jou are, aren’t you? A Sebastian?” Pepe reiterated.
Aeryn rolled her eyes. “It’s pronounced Sebacean, and no, I can’t either. Physically, I’m no different than a Terran.”
“I’ll do it,” Thor reached for the gauntlet, only to have it barred from him by half of the people in the cellar, much of the offense of the God of Thunder. “Oh. Were all of you just waiting for the right opportunity?”
“Thor, you are in zero condition to do this,” Kermit indicated.
“Staring at the thing isn’t going to bring everybody back, is it?” Thor grumbled. “Look, I’m the strongest Avenger. It’s my responsibility. Fate wills it so. Lightning is coursing through my veins, as we speak!”
“I thought it was alcohol,” Piggy jibbed.
“Lightning won’t help ya, pal,” Bruce told Thor, stepping towards the gauntlet. “It’s gotta be me.”
“Bruce…” Steve began.
“If those Stones originally killed Thanos, then we know what they can do to even a god like Thor,” Bruce said. “The radiation’s mostly gamma. It’s like I was made for this moment…”
“Bruce, you don’t have to do this,” Sarah said.
“I know, but one way or another, it’s gotta be done.”
“No, I mean, you actually don’t have to do this.”
All eyes focused on Sarah, the only one in the room who possessed the power of foresight akin to Doctor Strange himself. “What’re you talking about?” Stark asked her. “Is this another one of those ‘million in two’ outcomes? Because I can tell ya right now, that shit’s starting to wear thin on me like a rental tux.”
“Not exactly, Tony,” Sarah clarified. “I have looked ahead in this moment, and the one person in this reality capable of handling the Stones’ energy without any dangerous repercussions is Agent X.”
All eyes then shifted on X. “Me?!” X herself remarked in surprise. “Why me?”
“The experiment John Saccheri did to you in your world – the one that transformed you into what you are now? They were used with three of the Infinity Stones that’s in that gauntlet: Power, Mind, and Soul.”
X gazed on the gauntlet with renewed purpose. “Holy shit,” she muttered.
“Wait,” Barton protested, frustration and grief in his tone. “Lemme get this straight. X had the power to do the very thing we needed this whole time?! You’re tellin’ us that we never had to get any of these goddamned stones at all…that Nat gave her life for nothing?!”
“We still need the stones, Clint,” Sarah calmed him. “But we also need X’s power to harness them long enough for the snap.”
“And what if you’re wrong?” Ciciley confronted her. “I’m not ready to lose anyone else, especially not my baby!”
“Ma,” X said, close to a whisper. “It’s O.K. I got this.”
Ciciley wasn’t wholly convinced, but she didn’t want to stand between her own child and the fate of the universe. She permitted X to approach the gauntlet. As she did, everyone prepared themselves…
Crichton, Aeryn, and Nebula took aim with their pulse weapons.
Kara, Ciciley, the two Doctors, and the Muppets stood by in the Time Lords’ TARDISes, preparing to close the doors just in case.
Steve held up his shield, while Scott deployed his helmet.
Sarah and Wanda created magic shields that America stood behind, while Vision transmuted his body density to be as dense as vibranium.
Rocket covered his raccoon junk and hid behind Hulk and Thor.
Rhodey readied his repulsors while Tony armored up, creating a nano shield to protect Clint beside him. “Remember, everyone Thanos snapped away five years ago, you’re just bringing them back to today,” Stark instructed X. “Don’t change anything from the last five years. Got it?”
X gave a firm nod. “Got it.”
Finally, she held up the gauntlet and slowly slipped her hand into it. Suddenly, she spasmed, taking in the power as each corresponding color of the Infinity Stones lit up within the veins of her arm. The sleeve of her stability suit burnt off, baring her entire arm to show everyone the effects.
“Take it off, take it off!” Ciciley cried, attempting to run out of the Tenth Doctor’s TARDIS, only for him to hold her back.
“I’m okay!” X groaned, fighting through the pain.
She reached out her hand and snapped her fingers.
The Stones flared. A bright surge of energy raced up X’s arm and across the upper half of her body, completely searing away that portion of her suit.
She screamed as her eyes blazed a rainbow of colors until finally settling on a dark shade of brown. Her entire body lit up like a Christmas tree. The display could’ve been perceived as regeneration to the present Time Lords, particularly with how X’s appearance altered. Her fiery red locks had blackened. While she still possessed her robust physique, her face and hair were that of a completely different woman.
Following the snap, her arm drooped, the gauntlet falling off and rolling across the floor. She stood frozen in a complete daze, everyone watching her in confusion and concern. “Baby?” Ciciley called. The Tenth Doctor allowed her to go to X, once he deemed it safe.
“Did it work?” Gonzo asked.
Shortly after he did, both Kermit and Clint’s phones buzzed. Both men took them out and were stunned. On Clint’s home screen were the words “Laura Calling,” with a photo of his wife. On Kermit’s home screen were the words “Robin Calling,” with a photo of him and his nephew.
They answered after a fleeting moment of hesitation.
“Honey?” Clint said.
“R-Robin?” Kermit stammered. “I-Is that you?”
There was static on the other end, but Kermit could hear faintly, “Uncle Kerm—”
The entire Muppet Theater exploded.
Every New Yorker within a hundred-mile radius felt the earthquaking impact of the explosion, some experiencing PTSD brought on from 9/11 and the Chitauri Invasion of 2012. A mushroom cloud billowed over the horizon, visible to anyone standing along the streets of Lower and Midtown Manhattan to the Upper West Side and the Bronx.
Those closer could also see a giant alien warship descending towards the smoldering crater where the theater once stood.
Chapter 21: Assemble
VWORP! VWORP! VWORP!
The Doctors’ police box TARDISes and Kara’s Type-Z model materialized along the edge of a mile-wide, bombed-out crater that was formerly the site of the abandoned Muppet Theater and a few neighboring buildings that were fortunately vacant as well. Kara, the Doctors, and the Muppets safely stepped out of the Gallifreyan ships to survey the devastation, as Sanctuary II hovered over the ruins like a vulture.
“Blimey,” the Tenth Doctor gasped. “Thanos knows how to make an entrance.”
“Everything…everybody…it’s all gone!” Fozzie cried.
“Not everybody, Fozzie – Look!” Gonzo directed their attention to one area in the crater where Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were engaged in an intense three-on-one battle with Thanos. The heroes punished him relentlessly, drawing on the cheers of the Time Lord and Muppet spectators from afar.
In spite of the brilliance in watching Thanos getting thrashed, there was still one major concern the Thirteenth Doctor had: “Where’s the gauntlet and the Stones?!”
Her focus on it drove all the excitement away, as the others wondered just the same. “They’ve gotta be somewhere underneath all this wreckage,” Kermit surmised. “The important thing is Thanos doesn’t have them.”
Kermit’s optimism seemed to have been returning, because he made a good point.
Having momentarily taken their eyes off the battle in the crater, the spectators returned to the action just as they noticed Captain America wielding Mjolnir – Thor’s hammer. “Whoa-ho-ho!” Gonzo cheered at the momentous display. “This is getting really good!”
“Man, I wish Craig were here to see this!” an overexcited Kara exclaimed.
They watched Rogers attack Thanos with the hammer, cracking the Mad Titan in the jaw. Before his opponent could get up, Rogers called down the lightning and sent it crackling into Thanos’ body. Steve leapt, trying to finish Thanos off, but Thanos rolled aside, head-butting Steve backwards and knocking the hammer out of his grip.
Getting to his feet, Thanos whipped off his helmet and attacked Steve with his blade – blow after blow. The only thing protecting Rogers was his shield, which Thanos eventually hacked to pieces, finally knocking Steve across the field.
“NO!” Fozzie screamed.
“This is not looking good, h’okay,” Pepe stated the obvious.
Steve lied beaten, half a shield still attached to his arm, struggling to stand.
It only got worse when Thanos made a gesture, signaling for an armada of aliens to manifest along the lip of the crater. The Black Order led a platoon of Chitauri, Sakaarans, Outriders, and the Scarran Empire. Q-ships, dropships, Necrocraft, Leviathans, and Scarran Dreadnoughts and Strykers buzzed above.
“This is really not looking good, h’okay!”
“WILL YOU SHUT UP?!” Piggy barked at the king prawn.
Amid the intergalactic terror that was about to ensue against the lone Avenger on the battlefield, Kermit’s phone chimed again. This time, it was a text message from Scooter: “You still there, boss? We’re coming.”
Before Kermit and the others knew it, they heard another TARDIS materialize not far from the other three. It was another police box, looking a bit more retro compared to those of the Tenth and Thirteenth Doctors. Once it had fully materialized, its doors opened to clear a path for its new arrivals: Robin, Scooter, Graham, Yaz, and Ryan.
“Uncle Kermit!” Robin called, running up to the hug that awaited him from his more-than-relieved uncle.
“What did you do to your hair?” Yaz approached the brunette, makeup-heavy Thirteenth Doctor, who almost couldn’t believe she was seeing her fam in front of her again. The hug she suddenly gave to Yaz, and afterwards pulled Ryan and Graham into, confirmed they were indeed real.
“Hiya, Doc,” Graham waved to Thirteen. “What’s the big idea of leavin’ us in 1981 London with this nutter?” He gestured behind him to a tall gentleman in burgundy attire that included a fedora, a long coat, and an even longer scarf – the Fourth Doctor.
“My, my, my,” he surveyed the devastation all round, including the armada of vicious aliens that flanked one Mad Titan. “Isn’t this quite the nightmare? It’s a good thing we brought a lil’ help.”
The Tenth Doctor followed on his word. “Help?”
“Look!” Gonzo directed their attention to the crater again, just as a vast multitude of Sling Ring portals opened behind Steve Rogers.
From each one emerged a number of heroes:
Sam “The Falcon” Wilson, Doctor Strange, Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, Drax, Mantis, Groot, D’Argo, Chiana, Rygel, Zhaan, Peter “Spider-Man” Parker, Kraglin, T’Challa, Okoye, Shuri, M’Baku, Bucky, Valkyrie, Korg, Miek, Pepper Potts (in her own armored suit), Hope “The Wasp” Van Dyne, and Wong.
They were accompanied by the forces of the Ravagers, the Wakandan army, an Asgardian army, a squad of sorcerers, and even the Peacekeeper militia.
Fozzie’s eyes twinkled at the cavalcade of heroes. “That’s more than just ‘help’!”
“Half of the entire Earth-M universe came!” Kara said.
Just then, the ground shook and rubble exploded upwards. Scott rose up in his “Giant Man” form. He opened his huge hand, releasing Crichton, Aeryn, Rocket, Nebula, Hup, Rhodey, and Ciciley. Agent X was among them, looking even more different than earlier, with curly, shoulder-length hair, a more bronzed complexion, and a masculine physique.
One more Sling Ring portal opened to allow Sarah, America, Wanda, and Vision to walk out and join with the reinforcements. “They’re all back,” Wanda surveyed the crowd. “We did it.”
“It would appear so,” Vision concurred.
Leading the charge, Rogers called Mjolnir to his hand and, in one mighty voice, he shouted, “AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!!”
Thor let loose a battle cry as he charged.
Everyone followed suit with the heroes flooding the field.
Across the way, Thanos smiled and pointed his blade.
Two powerful armies raced toward each other until they clashed.
Sarah unleashed a volley of spells against a few Sakaarans and Scarrans, with Strange and Wong backing her. “Wong told me how you held down the fort at the New York Sanctum,” Strange told Sarah. “I owe you one.”
“You owe me five years,” Sarah smirked while decapitating a Scarran with an Eldritch Whip that she lashed at its throat.
At the corner of his eye, Strange caught sight of a young girl who was nearly struck from behind by Chitauri soldiers. “Look out!” he cried to her, quickly reacting by summoning a Sling Ring portal beneath the girl. She dropped just as soon as the Chitauri soldiers opened fire on some Sakaarans, who themselves opened fire on the soldiers. Both groups took each other out.
The girl Strange saved dropped from a portal Strange opened beside him. She slid to a halt at his feet, looking up in recognition at her savior. “You!” she exclaimed.
Strange frowned at her. “Do we…know each other?”
Sarah grinned as she observed the encounter between the two. “Stephen Strange, meet America Chavez,” she introduced. “America Chavez, meet Stephen Strange of Earth-M.”
Strange and America gazed at each other in fascination.
“Nice to meet you,” Strange shook her hand.
“Likewise…again,” America said.
“We should be out there fighting with the heroes,” Robin proclaimed. “C’mon, guys! Let’s go!”
The little frog was about to hop towards the battlefield before his uncle wisely restrained him. “Oh, no, you don’t! I just got you back, Robin. I’m not gonna lose you again!” He looked to the mayhem happening on the battlefield, unsure of which side was actually winning.
Looking more closely, he noticed Clint Barton running across the field, pursued by who appeared to be Gamora of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Of course, this was a Gamora from a different Earth that Thanos recruited, according to Team C’s mission report. Barton was in possession of the gauntlet – Gamora’s prize. “Guys! The green chick’s after me, and she wants the gauntlet! What should I do?” he conferred over comms.
Hearing him, Sarah looked to where the reunited Guardians and Moya crew were fighting side-by-side. She called and instructed to them, “You all! Follow me!”
They did as she said, although that didn’t stop Drax from asking, “Why are we doing what the old woman in the bathrobe is telling us to do?”
“You’re asking me?!” D’Argo griped to the Destroyer.
As soon as Sarah led them to where Gamora was chasing Barton, she trapped Gamora into a translucent orange box. Barton continued running, while the trapped Gamora aggressively slashed at the box, in a desperate attempt to escape.
Quill looked on her, overwhelmed and emotional. “Gamora?”
“It’s not her, Quill!” Rocket warned, keeping his blaster fixed on the box, along with the rest of the Guardians and the Moya crew.
“She’s a different Gamora than the one you remember,” Crichton told him.
Unfortunately, Quill wasn’t listening to either of them. He approached the box, which Gamora had ceased in slashing long enough to observe at the Terran male, who was looking back at her with a goofy smile. “I thought I lost you,” Quill tenderly said.
The more she observed him, the more Gamora seemed to have recognized him.
Detecting this, Quill ordered Sarah, “Take down this box now!”
“She’s not your Gamora, Quill!” Crichton repeated, with more vigor.
“I know!” Quill admitted. “But…maybe I can still make her recognize me.”
Sarah saw no point in such a futile attempt, but with Gamora outnumbered, she gave Quill a chance. Removing the box, Quill was now face-to-face with Gamora, who merely stood, still observing Star-Lord.
Taking out the Zune that Kraglin gifted him after the “Ego” situation, Quill slowly and carefully placed the earbuds on Gamora. Out of the three hundred songs he played on the digital media player, he chose Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” The music filled Gamora’s ears. At first, she reacted negatively to its loudness, but she quickly warmed to it, evident from the sway of her hips.
Smiling, Quill turned to his cohorts and said, “You see? She remembers our song! I told you I could…”
An excruciating pain in Quill’s groin dropped him to his knees. It was then followed by a swift punch to the face, knocking him out cold. Gamora stood with one foot on him, her sword positioned over his downed body, prepared to deliver the killing blow. The only thing that stopped her was Aeryn, who fired a stun ray that instantly rendered Gamora unconscious.
“I can’t believe he actually thought that dren would work,” Aeryn criticized.
“Lucky for him, it only costed his pride,” Crichton followed.
“And a set of nuts,” Rocket added.
As Kara, the Doctors, Graham, Yaz, Ryan, and the Muppets continued watching the fight, they heard the honking melody of “La Cucaracha” come their way. Turning to the noise, they saw an ugly brown van racing to the scene and screeching to a halt near the four TARDISes.
Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker clambered out of the vehicle, to the joy of the Fourth Doctor. “Ah, gentlemen! Such a pleasure to see the both of you again! You got my coordinates!”
Beaker meeped in affirmation. “Indeed, we had – forty years later,” Bunsen verified. “And we brought the machine!”
“What machine?” Kermit asked.
The Muppet scientists led everyone to the rear of the van and opened its doors to reveal a portable version of their gateway machine. “We prepared a backup in the event of the previous version’s destruction,” Bunsen said.
“This means we have our way of getting the Stones out of this dimension,” the Tenth Doctor gathered.
“And away from Thanos!” The Thirteenth Doctor caught on.
“Finally, my idea caught up to you two,” the Fourth Doctor beamed.
They immediately put the plan into action.
Bunsen and Beaker drove the van out into the battlefield, while the Doctors relayed the plan to the Avengers. The heroes provided as much cover as necessary for Bunsen and Beaker, as well as for Clint, who continued running with the gauntlet. It was then passed from hero-to-hero, with T’Challa taking possession before throwing it over to Spider-Man, who threw it to America Chavez. “Good luck!” Parker told her.
“Thanks, Spider-Man,” America returned, trying not to laugh. Cool as he looked to her, there was still no getting past that name, which made her snicker the first time she heard from Doctor Strange of Earth-616.
Seeing the game of “Hot Potato” that was being played by the Avengers, Thanos set his sights on Chavez. His blade firmly gripped, he prepared to attack the young girl before something fast and hard blindsided him. Recovering, he saw Vision floating across from him. “Didn’t I kill you?” he questioned the android.
“That was in another world,” Vision disproven.
“And it’s not going to happen in this one,” a voice belligerently declared to Thanos, who saw how all the wreckage near him floated. Looking away from Vision, he spotted Wanda, hovering in the air – her eyes glowing red. “You are not taking my family from me!”
“I don’t even know who you are,” Thanos stated.
Wanda smirked. “You will.”
She unleashed a storm of red energy, hurling wreckage at him. Thanos deflected a few debris and then leapt from the ground to cut Wanda in half with his blade, only for Vision to appear between the Mad Titan and the love of his artificial life. Vision transmuted his body density to a substance that not even Thanos’ blade could slice: adamantium.
To his horror, one half of Thanos’ blade shattered when it connected with Vision’s body. Wanda then kept Thanos floating in the air, ripping his armor off in pieces and then slamming him back to the ground.
Outmatched, Thanos groaned into his comms, “Rain fire. Wipe them all out.”
“But, sire,” Corvus Glaive spoke over the comm, “our troops…”
“JUST DO IT!”
High above, Sanctuary II descended, cannons opening up.
Wanda and Vision looked up, the former raising a force field over them, just as the Sanctuary fired down with everything it had. Sakaarans, Scarrans, and Chitauri alike went flying as every square inch got hit. All around the field, the relentless barrage pinned down the heroes, including a bruised and battered America, who was covered in debris.
Suddenly, everything went silent.
America looked up to see the cannons swiveling up towards the clouds.
Something entered the upper atmosphere: a comet heading straight for Earth.
“That’s no comet!” Gonzo cried, taking out a mini telescope (a cereal box prize he had kept since 1999) and peering through it. He could see what the naked eye would perceive as a bright shooting star veering towards Sanctuary and tearing through the ship, coming right out the other side. Its brightness dispersed long enough for Gonzo to recognize an old friend: “YEAH! GO, CAROL!!!”
“Carol Danvers?” Scooter overheard him. “As in ‘Captain Marvel’?”
“The one and only!” Gonzo cheered.
Carol glowed brighter as she went binary, rocketing again through Sanctuary’s hull, totally obliterating the warship.
With the assistance of Captain Marvel, America found it safe to get back on her feet with the gauntlet. She then let out a sharp yelp of pain that brought her back down. Her ankle had sprained from the barrage. “Can anybody hear me?” she said into the comm. “I don’t think I can carry it any further.”
There was no response.
And then, a large shadow casted over her.
Her heart skipped a beat when she saw the ravaged Thanos looming, with what was left of his blade gripped in hand. “It’s over,” he told her, reaching out with his other hand. “Give it to me.”
America defiantly clutched the gauntlet. “You’re going to lose…just like in every other Earth this fight happened in.”
“This time, it’ll be different,” the Mad Titan vowed.
Lunging for Chavez, his death blow was averted as soon as Bunsen and Beaker rammed the van into him. Regrettably, it had little effect on Thanos, who merely stood in confusion at the two Muppet scientists inside the vehicle. “Perhaps this wasn’t the best course of action, Beaker,” Bunsen fearfully nibbled on his fingers.
Beaker let out a petrified meep, his cylindrical head sinking into his collar.
Angrily, Thanos pushed away the van, sending it careening and flipping into a totaled mess. The rear doors had unlatched from their hinges, exposing the portable gateway machine to him. Smirking as he finally discovered the heroes’ plan, he abandoned killing America and instead used his blade for another means: destroying the machine. He did so with a single javelin toss.
Bunsen and Beaker fled in time before the machine and the van exploded.
From a distance, Strange and Stark both looked on the destruction. Believing that the Avengers were going to lose this battle, Stark looked to Strange and discovered how the sorcerer was holding up two fingers and then bringing one down to where only his index finger was held up.
In that moment, Tony recalled their exchange on Titan with the Doctor.
I know you’ve recently used that stone to look into several possibilities of winning the fight with Thanos – fourteen million six hundred and five outcomes, correct?
That is astonishingly on the nose.
Thanks. How many of those outcomes did we win?
You told us you saw only one.
I did, but the other outcome is too much of a risk to the multiverse.
For five years, Tony always figured that risk to the multiverse was the other outcome – the one where the Doctor gave up the Stones to Thanos.
But that wasn’t it.
This moment was the outcome. The risk they took, traveling the multiverse to reobtain the Stones, it all led to what would happen next.
“Stark,” he heard Ciciley approach him, her eyes fixed on Thanos. “Is there a way for you to transfer the nanites of your armor onto me?”
Tony frowned. “Yeah…why?”
Ciciley reached out her hand to him. “Do it.”
Stark wasn’t sure what she had in mind, nor did he have the time to ask – Thanos was already snatching the gauntlet away from America and putting it on. Iron Man clasped hands with Ciciley, his armor slithering off his body and grafting onto hers. She wasted no time in rocketing towards Thanos, lunging for the gauntlet and nano-clamping it in a vise.
“Fool!” Thanos roared, knocking Ciciley aside. “That was pathetic!” He lifted his hand in the air triumphantly. “Now you’ll see and understand that what I do…I do in the name of the Hierarchy!”
He snapped his fingers, but nothing happened. Confused, he turned the glove over to find the Stones missing. He then looked to Ciciley; his eyes widened in absolute terror.
Nano particles sliding and shifting, a new gauntlet formed on her wrist, complete with all six Infinity Stones. The power surged through Ciciley. She winced in excruciating pain, yet still managed to lift her hand, grinning at the helpless Thanos. “And now you’ll see and understand…that you’re screwed!”
A tidal wave evaporated into a mist. All around the field, Thanos’ troops folded in on themselves, atoms disintegrating. Ships vanished from the sky, each member of the Black Order collapsing into ash, until Thanos was left standing alone. He waited for his moment to die, but after a minute, he discovered that he was still alive.
“I’m still here,” he shuddered. “Why?”
“So that I could do this,” he heard a vengeful voice say. He turned just as something struck his abdomen, paralyzing him. He saw that it was a TVA baton, wielded by Clint Barton. “That’s for Natasha.”
Just as his troops before him, Thanos disintegrated.
But this wasn’t the same kind of disintegration that the Stones inflicted.
He knew it was something far worse, as his entire body disappeared from the Earth-M universe.
Clint didn’t know how what he just did to the Mad Titan worked, but he trusted the woman that gave him that baton. The very same woman who lied dying against a melted steel girder, her borrowed armor smoking, her arm withered and blackened.
Tony rushed to her, shocked by what she had done.
If he had known Ciciley would use his armor for another snap, he would’ve objected – maybe even do the deed himself.
“Friday, what’ve we got?” Stark asked the A.I. system, which he was still linked to through the comms.
“Life functions critical,” Friday alerted, much to Stark’s sorrow.
Tony’s lips quivered. “Wanted to be the hero, eh?” he teased Ciciley, who gave a weak smile. “Next time you want the spotlight, let me know, okay?” In spite of his quips, Tony was fighting back tears.
All around, the heroes gathered, the full weight of what had happened dawning on them: Ciciley was dying.
Through fading vision, Ciciley saw someone run through the surrounding crowd and come to her. “Moms?” It was a man’s voice she heard – a familiar voice that she hadn’t heard in years. She fought to concentrate on his face, one last time, and was delighted to see the face of Sean Livingston, her son. The Stones had reverted him back to his natural-born physiology, no longer the redheaded Agent X.
“Why did you do that, Moms?” he asked, tears welling. “Why? Why?! WHY?!”
But he knew why.
Ciciley Livingston, former agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avenger, was a hero – no matter what universe she was in.
And she gave her life for Earth-M, the universe her son could now call home.
Chapter 22: Epilogue
A funeral service for Ciciley Livingston was held a couple of weeks after the heroes’ victory over Thanos. She was laid to rest in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx with many in attendance: the Stark family (with Happy Hogan), Scott Lang and the Pym family, T’Challa, Okoye, Shuri, Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, James Rhodes, Vision, Wanda Maximoff, Thor, Bruce Banner, America Chavez, Bucky Barnes, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Moya crew, the Muppets, the three Doctors, Kara, the Barton family, Peter Parker and his Aunt May, Sarah Williams (along with Strange and Wong), Maria Hill, Carol Danvers, Nick Fury, and – of course – Sean Livingston.
Sean almost couldn’t believe the turnout. There were people who never properly met his mother, but nonetheless showed up to pay their respects to the woman who saved an entire universe – an entire multiverse.
Everyone began to depart, one-by-one, giving their condolences to Sean.
Tony, carrying Morgan in his arms, approached with Pepper Potts. “Hey, uh, we’re going out for cheeseburgers,” Stark began his invite. “Morgan’s developed an appetite for them – I wonder where she gets that from. You wanna come?”
Sean smiled in gratitude. “No, thanks. I appreciate it.”
“No prob,” Tony said. “Just call anytime you need us.”
He watched the happy family depart with Hogan in one of Stark’s many sporty vehicles. Believing he was alone at his mother’s gravesite, he heard a voice tell him, “It was meant to be Stark.”
To his left emerged Nick Fury, a man he hadn’t seen in ages.
“What did you say?” Sean asked him.
“In almost every outcome of that battle, in all the other Earths, it was Tony Stark who snapped his fingers and died saving the universe,” Fury elaborated. “Our little universe is one of the few where he survived by the brave sacrifice of a fellow Avenger.”
“How do you know all of that? Did Strange tell you?”
Sean saw him nod to his right and turned to see Kara still in attendance. She hung her hoodie over her shoulder, exposing more of the long-sleeved yellow crop top she had worn underneath. She looked radiant in the afternoon sun with her golden locks and piercing blue eyes. “I figured you’d be halfway across the multiverse by now,” Sean smirked at her.
Kara shrugged, also smirking. “I couldn’t just leave without saying goodbye and giving one last ‘Thank You’ to this incredible woman.” She nodded to Ciciley’s casket, frowning at she looked on it. “I really wish I got to know her more. In a way, I did know her. In my last regeneration, I looked identical to Ciciley…even had an abbreviation of her name.”
“Really?” Sean reacted in captivation.
Kara nodded and then gazed on him, analyzing his face and even putting her hand to it in a fond gesture. Sean wasn’t sure why she did that, but the warmth of her hand was soothing in the cold cemetery. “I remember when I had your face, too,” she told him. “I know a special lil’ dude who’d love to see it again.” She caressed Sean’s face for what felt like an eternity, before she eventually caught herself and retracted her arm.
Sean could see she was embarrassed. “It’s alright,” he said.
“I know,” Kara appreciated his understanding. “You take care of yourself, O.K.?”
On that, Kara walked away to her Type-Z TARDIS, which looked like one big marble tombstone amid the cemetery. Once she was inside, it dematerialized out of existence and out of Earth-M altogether.
“There truly are things beyond our world we have yet to understand.” Sean completely forgot Fury was still there with him; he kept quiet during the whole exchange with Kara. “Maria and I pulled a few strings and arranged a new position for you…as the new director of S.W.O.R.D.”
Sean was taken aback from this news. “What?!”
“I never really liked that word,” Fury teased. “How about ‘Yes’?”
Almost speechless, Sean joyously consented, “Y-Yes! Of course! But what about Tyler Hayward? Didn’t he just get promoted to the position after Maria Rambeau’s death?”
“I heard Hayward turned chicken and left the job vacant.”
“He never struck me as the cowardly type.”
“No, he literally turned chicken from an incident in Westview, a few days ago. Apparently, Gonzo was there. He’s still hanging with Hayward, as we speak, double-dating with Camilla.”
Sean shook his head, chuckling. “What a bizarre world I’m living in now.”
“And it still has more to show you,” Fury guaranteed.
Moya continued to orbit the planet Earth with the Benatar docked in her hangar. Aboard the living Leviathan transport vessel, the still-unconscious Gamora (who was spared of the Snap that took out Thanos’ army) lied in stasis inside of the ship’s medical facilities. Quill sat next to her, not having moved since she was brought on board.
“How long is he just gonna keep watchin’ her sleep like a pervert?” Rocket asked, viewing Quill along with the rest of the Guardians and the Moya crew.
“How long is he gonna be on our ship?” Rygel griped.
“You guys are all heart,” Crichton belittled. “The guy just found his girlfriend again, but she doesn’t even know who he is. Cut him a little slack.”
“Do you really have the means of transplanting Gamora’s memories and consciousness into her variant’s body?” Nebula questioned the Moyans.
“We don’t,” Aeryn clarified. “But there’s a planet out there that does.”
“And we’ll find it,” Zhaan assured, carrying Deke in her loving blue arms. None of the other Moyans could believe Crichton and Aeryn had a son in the five years they had been snapped away. Chiana couldn’t resist making funny faces around him, which made Deke giggle every time.
The sound of a duffle bag hitting the floor brought their attention away from Quill and Gamora to where Thor and Hup had appeared in the corridor. “Home sweet home – or so, I think it will be,” the God of Thunder reveled.
“Where the hell did you guys come from?!” Rocket asked.
“We’ve been on the ship the whole time!” Thor exclaimed. “Didn’t you see us walk up the Benatar’s ramp with you? After I said goodbye to Valkyrie and wished her luck in being king of New Asgard?”
“So that’s what that putrid smell was,” D’Argo muttered. “I thought it was Drax.”
“I take more showers a day than you do an hour, Luxan,” Drax retorted.
Just when it seemed as if the two men were about to throw down there and then, Thor let out a hearty laugh, clapping his hands. “I love this sort of family banter! It’s the whole reason I’m joining this crew, with my new Podling friend here.” Hup happily coincided with the God of Thunder in his native tongue, waving his new metal spoon.
“Rest assured, Asgardian, we are not family!” D’Argo refuted.
“Neither are we a crew!” Drax protested.
“We are now,” Quill spoke up from inside the medical room. He finally left Gamora’s side and stood with the two teams. “As long as Gamora’s here aboard Moya, we’re staying. Only after we’ve restored Gamora’s memories, we’ll see whether or not we keep traveling together.” He then looked to Crichton, holding out his hand. “Is that a deal?”
Crichton didn’t hesitate to accept the handshake from his fellow Terran. “Deal.”
“The Asgardians of the Galaxy!” Thor hailed of the newly allied crews, none of whom approved of the name.
Aeryn pretended to clear her throat, changing the subject.
“John?” she said. “Wasn’t there something you wanted to give Quill?”
Crichton groaned, wishing she hadn’t brought that up in front of everyone. Quill looked at him curiously as he removed something from his rear pocket and handed it to the Star-Lord. Peter’s eyes gleamed at the brand-spanking-new Walkman that had been given to him.
“Are you serious?!” he exclaimed in unrestrained bliss.
“I’ve had that thing with me ever since I left Earth in 1999,” Crichton said. “Figured if you were ever feeling retro, you’d ditch the Zune and listen to the classics.”
“He even threw in his own ‘mixtape’ – is that the right word for it?” Aeryn added.
Quill was overwhelmed by the gift. “Thanks, man,” he told Crichton. He then did a double take and realized, “Wait. You said you left Earth in 1999? How old are you, dude?!”
“O.K., I’m taking back the Walkman now.”
In the wake of the new “Blip,” with everyone Thanos snapped now returned, PizzeRizzo’s faced a major dilemma: the building was still leased under Pete’s name – something Rizzo neglected to change when he took over. As such, Rizzo was forced to hand ownership of PizzeRizzo to Pete. Thankfully, Jenny talked Pete into sharing revenue, with Rizzo as a partner.
Their first customers under the new management were Doctor Strange and Sarah Williams, who were mostly there for America Chavez – a big pizza eater. When she learned that PizzeRizzo was adding “pizza balls” to the menu, America just had to try some with slice after slice.
Wong had also joined them for a round of karaoke with Miss Piggy and Pepe, backed by the music of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
Between America’s eating and Wong’s singing, Strange verged on madness.
“I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” he nauseated.
Sarah laughed at his misery, just as she heard the entrance ding. She turned to see Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter, and Robin walk in. “Hey, guys!” Sarah greeted them. “How’s it going?”
“Fine, I guess,” Robin sighed, joining Strange, Sarah, and America at their table.
Noting how downhearted the Muppets were, Sarah asked, “What’s wrong? I figured you guys would be celebrating by now. I mean, I know the theater was a big loss, but…”
“It’s not that, Sarah,” Scooter told her. “It’s just…the Doctor left without saying goodbye.”
“We wanted to thank her for all that she did,” Gonzo said.
“For helping to bring everybody back,” Fozzie included.
“And to apologize,” Kermit said on his behalf. “I treated her so horribly…blamed her for doing what she had to do. And even after we succeeded in getting everyone – especially Robin here – back, I didn’t once stop and tell her ‘Thank you’.”
“And you’ll never have to, Kermit the Frog.”
Kermit and his friends stiffened when they heard the voice of the Thirteenth Doctor speak from behind them. There they saw her standing and smiling right at them, just as she had the first time they met. “Doctor!” Robin cheered, hopping away from the table to hug the Time Lord at her hip. “We thought you left!”
The Doctor gingerly patted the tiny frog’s back. “I had to do a favor for Steve Rogers, after we returned the Stones to their worlds – and found a new home for the Power Stone.”
“What sort of favor did you do for him?” Scooter asked.
“He wanted me to take him back…to 1949,” the Doctor said. “He’s gonna stay there, leave the mantle of ‘Captain America’ to Sam Wilson, and happily retire. But, if any of you happen to see a 112-year-old man around the city, be sure to stop and say ‘Hello’ to him.”
The Muppets nodded in agreement, though Fozzie was prompted to ponder, “I wonder what’s in 1949 for him.”
“Not a what, but a who – and that’s all I’m allowed to say,” the Doctor winked.
“But she is allowed to tell you what Captain Rogers left for the Muppets,” a gruff, stern, and patriotic voice said from the entrance. In stepped Sam the Eagle, looking more dignified than usual as he approached the Doctor and the Muppets. “No longer will we have to live in such uncouth habitations like that decrepit boarding house in Queens or that theater – good riddance!”
“Then where are we staying, Sam?” Scooter inquired.
After a two-hour drive upstate, the Electric Mayhem bus – carrying an ensemble of Muppet characters, big and small – arrived at the site of the New Avengers Facility. The grounds were unoccupied, all left for the Muppets to do as they pleased. Sam the Eagle had become the new caretaker of the facility, following Rogers’ retirement and the Avengers’ disbandment.
The Muppets walked in, awed by all the large space and numbers of available rooms for every pig, chicken, bear, king prawn, scientist, weirdo/alien, band player, drummer, and frog to do as they please. None of them wasted any time in getting settled.
“Is this really all ours?” Robin asked, standing in the foyer with his uncle, who could barely believe himself of what they inherited.
“It’d seem so,” Kermit confirmed.
Together, they glanced at the “A” still on the wall.
“It’ll always be the Avengers headquarters to me,” Robin decreed. “But we should give it a new name to suit us.” He then thought about it and suggested, “How ‘bout we call it ‘Muppet Central’?”
Kermit approved it with a nod. “That’s a great name, Robin.”
An explosion erupted somewhere in the upper floors, nearly scaring Kermit and Robin half to death. “Sawww-reeeee,” they heard Animal growl.
Shaking his head, Kermit told his nephew, “Let’s just hope we’ll still be able to call it ‘Muppet Central’ after a day.”
Bobo preferred days (if there was still such a concept) in the TVA when he could just relax at his desk in the courtroom, enjoying a peanut butter and honey sandwich or two. After taking a few bites, he nearly choked when Miss Minutes popped in front of him and informed, “Sorry to interrupt, boss,” she said, “but the big boss wants to speak to ya on Line 3.”
Downing some chocolate milk, Bobo rasped, “Thanks.” As soon as Miss Minutes was away, Bobo reached for the orange rotary phone sitting on his desk and answered, “H-Hey there, sir, how’s it goin’?”
“I should be asking you that,” the Conqueror said. His voice was so icy, even through the phone, Bobo got chills. “Is our new guest in the Void behaving himself?”
“O-Of course, sir,” Bobo confirmed. “He’s miserable, but he’s behavin’.”
“Good. Let’s keep him that way.”
“Y-Yes, s-sir. Hey, uh, now that I’m speakin’ to ya, is there any way we can get one of those candy machines in the Void in the waiting room? You know, the one with the M&M’s logo on the front?”
“Hello? You still there, sir?”
All he heard was a dial tone on the other end to signify the end of the call. Shrugging, Bobo hung up the receiver and returned to his sandwich.
Thanos wished that he had died along with his army.
It would have been a more welcoming fate than being sent into the Void, a point located at the end of time used to send everything pruned by the Time Variance Authority, just like himself. He sat amid an endless wasteland, scattered with various items discarded from different realities.
His only companion was a pink, bulgy-eyed lizard that annoyed him to no end.
“Hey-hey, Thane, my man! Look what I found!” The lizard carried a 1990s boom box, setting it next to Thanos. “I hadn’t seen one of these in a long time! And check it out – it still plays!” He switched on the boom box; a Whitney Houston single blared through the speakers and into the ears of Thanos. “Ahh, man! I love this song! C’mon, dance with me, Thane!”
There was no denying it: Thanos was forever trapped in Hell.